Some 80,000 Flock to the Western Wall for Priestly Blessing

April 14, 2017

by: Ilse Posselt

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Crowds gather at the Kotel during Passover

Friday, 14 April 2017 | The tradition is based on the instructions the Almighty gave to Moses in Numbers 6:22 – 27 to speak a very specific blessing over the children of Israel. Today, thousands of years later, the holidays of Passover and Sukkot see the children of Israel flock in their masses to the Western Wall, the only tangible remnant of the Second Temple and the most sacred spot in Judaism, for a special recital of this age-old blessing.

This year was no different. Yesterday morning, tens of thousands from Israel and around the world gathered at the Western Wall for the annual Passover priestly blessing or Birkat Hakohanim. As nearly 80,000 Jews stood below, wrapped in the white of their traditional prayer shawls (tallit), the biblical blessing, recited by a group of descendants of Aaron from an overlooking wall, echoed through the Old City of Jerusalem, “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24–26).

The blessing ceremony, which takes place twice a year during Passover and Sukkot, also included prayers for the State of Israel and for the safety of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and other security forces, TPS News reports.

Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef as well as the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch oversaw this year’s Passover ceremony.

“Everybody felt a terrific sense of unity today,” Rabinovich told TPS News. “Jews from around Israel and around the world participated… the pilgrimage (to Jerusalem) is an impressive testimony to the Jewish people’s connection to the ruins of our destroyed Temple.”

“When so many people come to lay their hands on the stones at this place; the inspiring sight of thousands of Jews filling every inch of the plaza reminds one of ancient times, when thousands of pilgrims would come to see and be seen, and of course it is more reminiscent of the Temple than of the destruction,” TPS News quoted Rabinovich as saying.

The modern version of the ancient blessing was instituted in 1971 by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gafner. In the 46 years since, it has become a tradition that many look forward to over the holidays.

Despite the festive atmosphere, there was also a sense of heightened awareness and security around Jerusalem. According to The Times of Israel, Israeli police stationed a large number of additional officers throughout the city, particularly at “flashpoint” sites to maintain order and ensure “the safety and wellbeing of the public.”

Last week, Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, announced that security in the nation’s capital had been bolstered over the festive season as some 150,000 visitors from around the globe were expected to celebrate Passover and Easter in the city. This year, both these holidays coincide.

Describing security in Jerusalem as “at its highest level,” Rosenfeld vowed that “[p]olice will ensure the security and ease of travel for the tens of thousands of visitors entering and exiting the Old City.”

Last month, Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security agency) Director, Nadav Argaman, also warned that Hamas will without a doubt try to launch terror attacks on Israel during the Passover holidays. “Our goal, of course,” he assured, “is to ensure quiet holidays for every citizen of the State of Israel.” Over the past month, Israel has uncovered numerous Hamas terror cells operating in Israel. These cells were in various stages of planning terror attacks against the Jewish state.

Posted on April 14, 2017

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 14 April 2017)

Photo Credit: Robin Ubl-Orack/ Bridges for Peace