Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 16:31 UK

Fate of Obama note alarms rabbis

By Wyre Davies
BBC News, Jerusalem

Barack Obama places a note in the Wailing Wall on 24 July
Mr Obama left the note on a pre-dawn visit to the wall

Senior rabbis have criticised the apparent removal and publication of a prayer note left in the Western Wall by Barack Obama on his visit this week.

The US Democratic presidential candidate left the note, as many worshippers do, in a crack in the Wall but no one knows who removed it.

The Western, or Wailing, Wall, is one of the holiest places in Judaism.

It is a relic of the Second Temple which was destroyed by the Romans 2,000 years ago.

The image of devoted Jews praying with their heads pressed up against the ancient blocks of stone is one of the great sights of the Holy Land.

Copy of note attributed to Barack Obama (image from Maariv newspaper)
Lord - Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.
note attributed to Barack Obama

A note, or prayer, jammed into one of many cracks in the wall, is considered a sacred act - whether or not the worshipper is Jewish.

Even though he is a practising Christian, Barack Obama's last act on his high-profile trip to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories this week was to pray at the Wall.

The decision by an Israeli newspaper to publish a note, apparently left by Senator Obama, was criticised by the senior rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz.

He said a written message was a private matter between God and the individual and the removal of Mr Obama's note was highly inappropriate.

Twice a year, when the cracks in the Wall become full, the prayers and messages are removed and buried - without being read - in strict accordance with Jewish law.

There was no comment from Mr Obama's office.

But by asking, in his message, for personal guidance and his family's safety, the presidential hopeful had taken care not to write anything controversial - just in case it was removed and published.

Update 18 December 2008: This story originally referred to the Wailing Wall as the holiest place in Judaism. Following a ruling by the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, this reference has been amended.

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