The US and Israel are bonded by shared values, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stated as he and his 19-member bipartisan congressional delegation visited the Western Wall on Sunday just after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport.
“Israel you are a blessed nation and our shared values unite a bond that will never break,” McCarthy wrote in the guest book of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the organization that preserves the spiritual remnant of the ancient Temple.
He also placed a note in the deep crevices between the wall’s aged stones.
Such visits are viewed as a symbolic nod in the direction of recognizing Jewish sovereignty over the site, located over the pre-1967 line in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Palestinians view that section of the city as part of the future capital of their state.
This is not the first time McCarthy has prayed at the site. Visits have become increasingly routine among American politicians since Donald Trump became the first sitting president to pray at the wall during his 2017 trip to Israel.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz said that he and McCarthy’s delegation prayed for peace in Israel and the United States.
He recalled for the congressional members that “these ancient stones at our feet are the same stones that supported the Temple almost 2,000 years ago.
“The Temple was destroyed, but its spirit remained in the world – a spirit of freedom and mission, a spirit of faith in the Creator and in humanity,” Rabinowitz said.
“For many years, we have been admiring how the American nation expresses the deepest and most important values of the Jewish spirit,” Rabinowitz explained. He added that the two peoples are united in “a covenant of destiny – to be faithful messengers of” the Creator and in repairing the world.
The Republican politician from California landed in Israel with his delegation on Sunday afternoon after a visit to Jordan, where they met with King Abdullah.
McCarthy, who has visited Israel many times and is known to be a strong supporter of the Jewish state, is scheduled to address the Knesset’s plenum on Monday, making him only the second House speaker to do so.
This is McCarthy’s first foreign trip abroad since he became speaker in January this year.
A warm welcome from Israel
His visit is billed as a celebration of US-Israel ties over the last 75 years and as an important step in laying the foundation of the next 75 years in the relationship between the two countries.
“On behalf of our entire delegation, it is an honor to join you in Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s independence and to reaffirm the special bond between our nations,” McCarthy said upon his arrival.
“I have visited Israel more times than any other country, and today, I come for the first time as speaker of the House of Representatives. The next 75 years of our important partnership promises to be even stronger than the first 75,” he added.
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, who had invited him to Israel, greeted him and his delegation at the airport.
“Mr. Chairman, it is a great privilege for me to welcome you to Israel,” Ohana said.
“Thank you for accepting my invitation and choosing the Knesset to be the first parliament in the world to visit. I greatly appreciate the fact that you came at the head of an important bipartisan delegation.
“I look forward to the joint work between us that will strengthen and fortify the connection between our two parliaments,” Ohana said.
While in Israel, he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
McCarthy’s visit comes amid tension between Israel and the Biden administration over Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan, which critics fear will weaken the country’s democracy.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein said the visit by such high-ranking delegations is proof that US-Israel ties have remained strong despite the tensions.
“Their message of support is very important,” Edelstein said.