Emanuel Visits Old City, Sheds Tear at Western Wall

White House chief of staff also visited the Aish Hatorah Yeshiva, where he had a fantastic vantage point of the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So what can we, or should we, learn from the long moment Rahm Emanuel spent standing in front of the Western Wall, with his son Zach - one hand on the teen who was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah, the other on the cool stones, his eyes welled up in tears? Can this be crowned as the "Jewish moment" for the man who has the ear of U.S. President Barack Obama, the man who was known as a pro-Israel Congressman, but of late, as Chief of Staff at the White House, was accused in Israel of being pro-Palestinian and even a fifth column? Will these tears have any political weight when he returns to his office in Washington? Should this visit interest the public in any way?

Rahm Emanuel in Old City 27.5.2010
Tomer Appelbaum

To judge by the army of cameramen following the Emanuel family as they made their way through the Old City in Jerusalem, the answer is that it indeed does interest the public. A similar conclusion can be reached if we look at the three or four protesters - two being the usual suspects Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel - who heckled Emanuel.

Marzel and Ben-Gvir ambushed Emanuel in the Jewish Quarter, calling him an "anti-Semite" and "Israel hater," and they scored their headline. But once they were held by police, calm was restored and things went back to their original intention: a Bar Mitzvah trip for a Jewish family from Washington, with origins in Chicago and a grandfather from Israel.

The Old City is a square kilometer in size. A mere one square kilometer packed with historic conflict, topped off with a blazing sun and a few surprising moments of rain. There were also magical moments of unity and harmony: In each of the four quarters of the Old City, each alley in which the large group moved, people asked, in Hebrew or Arabic, "Who is it?"

A handful of people in that single square kilometer recognized the White House Chief of Staff, who may affect the situation here too. There were those who welcomed him and tried to shake his hand, and there was at least one person left wondering: "Who is this Rabbi Emanuel?" And why is such an important rabbi looking like a tourist, wearing short khakis and sneakers.

The Emanuel family walked through all the quarters of the Old City, and then made their way back through the market to their hotel in the center of Jerusalem. Their tour guide took them to holy sites for Jews and Christians. Twice they went to the Western Wall. The first time Rahm Emanuel waited with his security detail from a look-out point at the Aish Hatorah yeshiva, a fantastic vantage point at the heart of the conflict - the holy basin that includes the Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and beyond the Mount of Olives with the blue and white flag flying over the homes purchased by settlers.

If Emanuel had any conclusions about the conflict from his vantage point, he kept them to himself.