JERUSALEM – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro visited a number of sacred sites on Monday during his visit to Israel.
Bolsonaro saw the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the most sacred places in Christianity, and then the nearby Wailing Wall, a sacred site for Jewish people, in the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem.
The far-right Brazilian leader was Catholic but in 2016 he was baptized as Evangelical Christian on the Jordan River, a fact he referred to several times when he arrived in Israel on Sunday.
The speech he delivered was full of religious references.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompanied him during his visit to the Wailing Wall, the last remaining vestige of the platform on which the Second Temple stood.
European prime ministers and foreign ministers do not usually visit this enclosure, which has been occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967, during official tours.
Brazil’s decision to include these stops on Bolsonaro’s agenda during his official visit to Israel sparked criticism from the Palestine Liberation Organization, which claims the territory as the capital of its future state.
The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently visited the region and became the first US senior official to stop by the Wailing Wall during an official visit.
Donald Trump, to whom Bolsonaro publicly showed admiration, became in 2017 the first active US President to visit the Wailing Wall.
However, Trump did not want to be accompanied at that moment by Israeli authorities to avoid damaging Washington’s historical stance not to recognize the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem.
Months later, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, against international consensus.
Bolsonaro’s visit coincides with the electoral campaign ahead of April 9 general elections in Israel, in which Netanyahu will seek a new term in office.
Before his visit to the Old City, Greenpeace activists hung a large banner on the centuries-old walls of the Holy city that read “Stop Amazon Destruction.”
“We will remind the president of the importance of the Amazon, all the time and tirelessly,” Greenpeace Brazil said in a statement in Portuguese.
It also denounced that “an area as large as two football fields of the Amazon rain forest is deforested every minute.”
The organization said the Amazon is “patrimony of all Brazilians and it is being destroyed,” something they considered “unacceptable and should come to an end.”