Argentine President Comes to Israel “to Say Thank You” // Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish, Argentina’s future ambassador to Israel, talks about Javier Milei’s recent historic visit

Argentinian President Javier Milei visits at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on February 6, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** כותל מערבי ארגנטינה חאבייר מיליי

Javier Milei, recently elected president of Argentina, a country of close to 46 million people, is undoubtedly a phenomenon in international politics. His trip to Israel this past week was his first visit abroad as president, the fulfillment of a promise he made during his election campaign. He was accompanied on the trip by his rabbi and close confidant, Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish, who is the head of Argentina’s Moroccan Jewish community. Rabbi Wahnish is slated to serve as Argentina’s next ambassador to Israel. As he told Ami, they are currently looking for a suitable home for the embassy in Jerusalem.
Although this visit was only three days long, the president had a packed schedule of visits and meetings. But what stood out was the fact that immediately after being greeted at Lod Airport by Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, Milei went with his entourage directly to the Kosel, where he prayed and inserted a note between its stones. In his public comments there, he stressed his support for Israel and expressed hope that the current war against Hamas will end with an Israeli victory.
“I wish to express my unconditional support for the State of Israel. I defend the right of self-defense of the Israeli people in the face of terrorist attacks. We must never permit darkness to vanquish the light.” Milei also danced enthusiastically with some of those present to the tune of “Am Yisrael Chai,” and he concluded his visit with an inscription in the guest book in Spanish: “I ask the Creator for wisdom, courage and understanding to be a tool to carry out the Creator’s will.”

“The president had vowed that his first official visit would be to Israel,” Rabbi Wahnish tells Ami. “The first thing he wanted to do was to thank G-d for having been elected to the highest position in his country in order to improve the circumstances of its citizens.
“When he was at the Kosel,” Rabbi Wahnish continues, “I could see that he was moved to tears. Ever since I met him two and a half years ago, even before he entered politics, the two of us have wanted to make a joint visit to the Kotel, but the right opportunity never came along until now. Aside from sending a message to the international community that promises must be kept, it also shows that this visit transcends personal considerations or ego.”
“Do you know what the president wrote in his note?” I ask.
“Aside from expressing his gratitude, I explained to him that he should also ask Hashem for success in his role of leadership.
“When I reflect upon this visit, I am reminded of the parable of the Chofetz Chaim about the textile merchant who suddenly closed his shop one day and went to the big city. When he returned, he was asked, ‘How could you have just abandoned the store like that?’ The man explained that he had gone to buy a large stock of merchandise that he would then be able to sell throughout the year. The Chofetz Chaim explains that this is an allusion to Shabbat. We ‘close up shop’ every week so we can avail ourselves of spiritual ‘merchandise’ and blessings that enable us to function properly on the other six days. To a certain extent, this visit to Israel was the president’s ‘Shabbat,’ having come to recharge his spiritual batteries as well as to cultivate economic ties between the two countries.”
Milei visited the Gaza Envelope with President Yitzchak Herzog. He also met with Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau and Rishon L’Tziyon Rav Yitzchak Yosef. At the conclusion of their meeting, the latter presented the president with a copy of his sefer Yalkut Yosef, translated into Spanish.
The Argentine president was also honored with a visit by Rav Dovid Abuchatzeira, who gave him many brachos and hugged him. “Rav Abuchatzeira said it was no wonder that the visit took place during Parshat Yitro, as Yitro had also come to Moshe Rabbeinu to say thank you for the miracle of the salvation of the people of Israel. Rav Abuchatzeira stressed that his blessings were not only intended for the new president but for all of Argentina, that it should succeed economically, with regard to security, and in every other possible way.”


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