LONDON -- 5 p.m local time
If I hadn't been to the Western Wall myself on Wednesday, I wouldn't have believed anyone would actually remove a prayer not from the wall and have its contents reproduced in a Jerusalem newspaper. (Just to clarify in response to some comments already. I went to the Wall alone just before noon local time on Wedensday. It was not part of the Obama trip to the Wall).
But such is the case with Barack Obama's prayer note, left after he visited the wall in the pre-dawn hours Thursday. Were this information not already a part of the public record in the Hebrew daily Ma'ariv, I would not reproduce it here. But interest in every Obama movement is high and the prayer itself is in its own way profound, compelling and gentle.
Here it is:
Protect my family and me. Forgive my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.
The note was written on a "King David" piece of paper and published on Ma'ariv's front page today.
It took Obama quite some time to wedge his prayer note in one of the few available cracks in the Western Wall. That someone who dare remove it would have seemed impossible to me had I not experienced first hand the disconcerting behavior of those in and around the Wall.
As I approached, I was immediately set upon by various petitioners who sought to "pray" for me and did so without my approval. I was then led into an adjacent library where scholars study the Torah. I was met by another man who placed a string around my wrist and said another unrequested prayer. Both men essentially cornered me in the library until I produced what little cash I had.
I then ventured to the Wall for I hoped would be a moment of solitude, contemplation and prayer. But as soon as I stopped before the Wall, I was immediately asked for money. Honestly, no sooner had I closed my eyes, leaned toward the Wall and set my forehead gently upon it, a man came up to me, shouted that I should tell him my name and proceeded, without my permission, to carry on with a "prayer," not a word of which I could understand. Upon finishing, he demanded money and kept up his demands until I fairly had to shout that I was out of money, having already given it all to those who had just badgered me in the library adjacent to the Wall.
Based on this experience, I can say that I found this profound place of history, religion, prayer and magneticism to be less accommodating to solitude than a public restroom.
And it is therefore no surprise to me that someone would desecrate Obama's prayer note -- a private message from one human being to his God -- and disrespect not only Obama, but Obama's God, and the fragile, imperfect -- and one would think private - human pursuit of faith.