Stealing prayers from the Western Wall: despicable

posted at 12:15 pm on July 26, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

One would think that the Israelis would know better — and the Los Angeles Times, too, for that matter.  After Barack Obama visited the Western Wall and left the traditional prayer note in one of its crevices, someone stole it and gave it to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, which published its contents.  The Times repeated the offense in its coverage:

Barack Obama’s visit to the Western Wall was a public event. The handwritten prayer the presidential candidate left there was meant to be private.

But as soon as he doffed the requisite skullcap and left, a snoop pulled a folded piece of paper from a crevice in the ancient wall and offered it to the mass-circulation daily Maariv. The Hebrew-language newspaper’s decision to publish it Friday, under the headline “Obama’s note,” provoked a storm of criticism in Israel over an intrusion into his relationship with God. …

Shmuel Rabinovitz, the rabbi who manages Judaism’s holiest site, was furious at the snoop and Maariv.

“The notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker,” he told Army Radio. “It is forbidden to read them or make any use of them.” The publication, he added, “damages the Western Wall and damages the deep, personal part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves.”

No one doubts that Obama meant his visit to the Wall as a public event. WND reported that Obama’s campaign even distributed campaign posters for supporters to hang on police barricades, which is pretty tacky, if true.   (The posters were certainly there.)  However, the prayer note should have been respected as a private communication between Obama and God, not exploited for circulation boosting.

The Anchoress writes:

I’m kind of appalled that anyone took his prayer out of that wall, more appalled that it was made public, and incredibly appalled that some a faith-based site is “fisking” the prayer while a few bloggers (and forum commenters) are daring to mock it or to judge its content as being insufficient because it does not mention his country, or Israel.

To which I have to reply – to anyone enjoying or exploiting the theft of this prayer, or judging it: “screw that. You don’t get to decide on or judge another’s prayer.” …

None of us are perfect – none of us pray perfectly – and good heavens most of us would not like the deepest parts of our prayer put out there for public judgment and mockery. I know I wouldn’t. My prayers, unless I’m clearly sharing them with others, are between me and God, and they’re no one else’s damn business.

This is, I think, the cult of celebrity at its ugliest.  It would be akin to bugging a confessional to hear a Catholic candidate’s private conversation between his priest and the Lord.  It assumes no boundaries, no privacy, regardless of the lack of relevance to the issues at hand.  We’re not electing a Pope; we’re electing a President, and his private entreaties to God should remain private.

Shame on the man who stole this note, and the several others who stole the notes of others in their search for Obama’s.  Shame on Maariv and the Times, and anyone else who published Obama’s prayer.  Maybe all of them should be praying to get a life.

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Aristotle on July 27, 2008 at 5:24 PM

Then why did anyone bother to take, or publish, the original? I’m totally confused, now.

progressoverpeace on July 27, 2008 at 8:17 PM

Maariv’s official statement was “Obama team was handing out copies of the note to the media before he left his Hotel“. Not that they are not liars, but it’s not the kind of lie anyone would make up, as it is easy to confirm or deny.

Aristotle on July 27, 2008 at 5:24 PM

Ma’ariv’s initial report of the receipt of the original note is here, in Hebrew. No such statement there.

Nor is there prior mention of the note’s contents in Ma’ariv’s original report of Obama’s visit to the Western Wall.

Now, here’s a funny update from the JPost:

Yeshiva student returns Obama’s note

The yeshiva student who pried Barack Obama’s prayer note from the Western Wall has apologized.

US Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama places a note in the Western Wall on Thursday.

Identified only by the first initial of his name, Aleph, and with his face obscured, the student went on Channel 2 television Sunday to confess that he took the presidential contender’s note last week and passed it to the press.

The resulting coverage of Obama’s private, handwritten musings on hope and sin added to the mystique of his campaign visit to Israel but drew international criticism, including from leading rabbis who said Jewish morality had been compromised by the publication.

Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate to face off against Republican John McCain in the race to succeed President Bush in November, has not commented on the episode.

“I’m sorry. It was a kind of prank,” Aleph said, his hands shaking as he fingered the tightly wadded-up sheet of King David Hotel letterhead. “I hope he wasn’t hurt. We all believe he will take the presidency.”

Channel 2’s religious affairs correspondent said she had passed the note from the yeshiva student to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which reinserted it – deeply – between the ancient slabs of stone.

Don’t you just love the Obama plug from the “yeshiva student”?!

Aristotle’s quote from Ma’ariv claiming the note was pre-released by Obama comes from here:

Attorney: Probe paper for printing Obama note.

Only when the attorneys and a legal threat stepped in yesterday, did Ma’ariv sing a different tune. Hmmmmm…….

Shy Guy on July 28, 2008 at 5:12 AM

What is Obombem really looking for, a telephone number for a good time?

MSGTAS on July 28, 2008 at 10:14 AM

What is Obombem looking for the telephone number for a good time? Won’t find it on that side of the Wall.

MSGTAS on July 28, 2008 at 10:17 AM