Bill de Blasio Visits Western Wall, Meets Netanyahu
Photo: Jacob Kornbluh
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio concluded his 3-day solidarity visit to Israel by visiting the Western Wall (Kotel), touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Sunday morning, de Blasio took yet another opportunity to visit the Kotel, after walking to the Western Wall through the Old City on Friday night. Swarmed by a group of Orthodox Jewish leaders and Yeshiva students from New York, the mayor walked the plaza to the wall, posing for pictures and greeting bystanders. Joined by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, he recited a chapter of Psalms, wrote a prayer on a note and placed it in the wall, and stood in silence for almost 5 minutes.
“It’s a profound honor to be in this holy place. We are reminded here of the power of faith,” he wrote in the guestbook. “Thank you for preserving this for all future generations.”
The Mayor then visited Yad Vashem – the World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration – for a “personal” tour of the museum, which was closed for press. He then visited the Hall of Names and laid a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance, before delivering the keynote address for the Annual Conference of Mayors at the entrance of the museum.
In his speech, De Blasio called on cities all over the world, especially European government, to fight injustice, hatred and antisemitism, even before it picks up its head. “It takes consistency, sending a signal at every turn that no act of hate is acceptable, that even acts that may appear small must be addressed,” he said. “We call upon everyone to protect our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, introduced mayor de Blasio. “In his kishkes, he understands that the fight for intolerance has to go on,” Rosen said.
The liberal mayor of New York City boasted his administration’s approach in fighting antisemitism but also crime in general as an example for other governments to follow. “In 1994, our then police commissioner, and I’m pleased to say our police commissioner again, Bill Bratton, changed the approach to crime and disorder and addressed the fears of people all over the city,” de Blasio accounted. “He pioneered a set of reforms and those reforms required a response to any acts of law breaking, no matter how small. And that very simple notion of not looking away when the law was broken started to change us, started to raise the bar. And that’s what we have to strive for in fighting prejudice and bias. That’s what we have to strive for in protecting Jewish communities. We call this approach to fighting crime – the broken windows strategy. Well, there is a ‘broken windows’ strategy necessary to fighting bias and intolerance, to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of hate,” he stressed.
Mayor de Blasio also had a chance to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem. “Good to see you. God, you’re tall,” the prime minister remarked as he welcomed the mayor in the cabinet room for a photo spray. “It’s an important time to be here,” de Blasio said, referring to the recent wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks. To which the prime minister replied: “It’s an act of solidarity. I’m very glad you’re here, and I’m looking forward having a good discussion with you.”
Netanyahu also took the opportunity to lecture the NYC press corps about Israel’s Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, as he waited for the mayor to arrive. “Look outside the window. That’s a settlement there,” a jolly Netanyahu said, pointing to Gilo, an Israeli neighbourhood in the south-western East Jerusalem. “That’s Gilo – it’s part of Jerusalem, and it’s described as a settlement.”
The two leaders met for nearly an hour. “They discussed the current security situation, New York City’s solidarity with Israel at this difficult moment, and the continued hope for peace,” according to a readout by the Mayor’s office.