U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pauses in prayer as he visits the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, during prayers marking Tisha B’Av in Jerusalem’s Old City July 29, 2012. Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting and lament, is traditionally the date in the Jewish calendar on which the First and Second Temples were destroyed, respectively in the sixth century B.C. by the Babylonians and the first century A.D. by the Romans in Jerusalem.
Presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney, during a speech in Jerusalem Sunday, affirmed the commitment of the United States to Israel, backed its right to defend itself yet he avoided stating whether he’d back or respect a unilateral military strike on Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions.
His visit including meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and conducting, local media and holy sites including “Western Wall in Jerusalem, one of Judaism’s holiest religious sites, where he left a prayer note in a crease in the wall as he marked the fasting holiday of Tisha B’av,” the Washington Post reported.
Romney’s visit coincided with Tisha B’av, ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av and the anniversary of the day on which two ancient temples were destroyed – the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 B.C., and the Romans burned down the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
“Tisha B’Av is commemorated to arouse our national memories and our national aspirations. Even with the establishment of the state of Israel, we have a long way to go before all is well with the Jewish people,” writes Rabbi Marc Angel , director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals in Haaretz newspaper . “While our observance of Tisha B’Av is not as bleak and somber as that of our ancestors in pre-State days, we still derive value by devoting the day to fasting and prayer, to memory of tragedies past, to dreams of redemptions yet to come.
“It is a day for spiritual and national reflection.”
“The events commemorated by Tisha Be’Av are so tragic that, two millennia ago, the rabbis ordained that Jews should refrain from most pleasurable activities from the beginning of the month during which Tisha Be’Av falls,” according to “Jewish Literacy” reference book. “This date marks as well the day on which the Jews of England were expelled from that country in 1290. The greatest catastrophe of medieval Jewish history, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, occurred on the ninth of Av in 1492; it is possible that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sadistically chose the date to intensify the Jews’ misery and horror. During the Holocaust, the Nazis took pleasure in organizing murderous actions against the Jewish community on the ninth of Av.”
As a presidential candidate, Obama also visited Israel as part of a tour aimed at establishing his foreign policy credentials, introducing him on the world stage. He hasn’t traveled to the nation as president; other U.S. presidents who didn’t travel to Israel while in office included Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
View Photo Gallery: After stopping in London to visit with British leaders and attend the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Republican presidential candidate continues his week-long overseas trip by going to Israel. He will conclude his journey with a stop in Poland.