British Home Secretary Sajid Javid paid a historic visit to the Western Wall on Monday morning during a two-day trip to Israel. It was the first time a senior official of the British government visited the holy site in 19 years.
Javid was greeted by Mordechai Eliav, the Director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, and the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz. The Conservative Party politician said he was excited to visit the place and could feel the historic and spiritual significance of the holy site.
He also took time to place a note between the wall’s stones in accordance with Jewish tradition.
The minister, who is from a Muslim family and is known as a strong supporter of Israel, said that his father believed in a deep connection between Jews and Muslims. His brother visited the Western Wall as a child, inspiring Javid to follow in his tracks.
Rabinowitz told the Home Secretary: “Your visit here is evidence that it is possible for Jews and Muslims to live together in this small place without harming one another.” The Home Secretary replied, “We love Jewish heritage very much and appreciate it.”
In December, Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz visited the holy site as part of a tour of the Old City – the first time in recent memory a leader of a European Union nation visited the wall, even if the tour was billed as a private visit. The EU considers the Western Wall “occupied territory.”
During his trip, Javid also met with Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. The two discussed how Britain and Israel can collaborate on security issues. “We agreed to establish joint working groups on combating online threats such as exploitation of children and terrorist incitement, and on facing the challenge of drones,” Erdan said on Twitter.
“Thank you for your leadership on banning Hezbollah and combating anti-Semitism. You are a true friend of Israel and the Jewish People,” he added. Javid announced in February that Britain would ban the Iranian-backed terrorist group, Hezbollah, in its entirety.