Israel’s president visits White House; Biden kneels before mother of 12

President Reuven Rivlin visited the White House this week during his final days as president of Israel accompanied by his chief of staff and bureau chief Rivka Ravitz. When President Biden was introduced to Ravitz, a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jew and mother of 12, Biden got down on one knee before her, presumably as an act of respect.

“I have a picture of my mother here,” Biden said during the meeting, “You must see who she was.”

Biden also met with President Rivlin’s daughter, telling reporters he spoke with the Rivlins about their family.

Ravitz’s religious observance has led to some unusual changes in political protocol. She wears modest clothing and covers her hair with a wig. She does not fraternize with male colleagues or participate in “staff-consolidation days”, and refrains from shaking hands when greeting men, in keeping with halakha. During Rivlin’s 2015 visit to the Vatican, a photograph showing Pope Francis bowing to Ravitz while she remained erect led to media reports that the Haredi woman had refused to bow in greeting because Francis was wearing a cross. The pope even apologized for the cross and was quick to hide it.

“I’m so delighted his daughter is here. She’s in the back right there. And I got to — I got to meet her and talk about our kids and grandkids and all the like.”

It should be noted that last month, President Biden got down on one knee to greet Opal Lee, the 94-year-old “Juneteenth” advocate and former educator from Texas, at the presidential signing ceremony.

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