Workers overseen by Rabbi of the Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch emptied the Western Wall of notes and letters on Monday morning, making room for the prayers and wishes of a new year.

Twice a year, before Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year, which falls next week) and Passover, a maintenance crew cleans the notes left in the cracks of the almost 2,000-year-old wall. The letters, which often contain the most personal and private requests or prayers, are buried without being read.

Prayers and notes in the cracks of the Western Wall (photo credit: CC-BY Yarin Kirchen/Wikipedia)

Prayers and notes in the cracks of the Western Wall (photo credit: CC-BY Yarin Kirchen/Wikipedia)

The Western Wall is the holiest site of the Jewish people, and it is a tradition to write down prayers and/or personal requests and place them in the cracks of the Wall.

Over the years, various projects developed around the world to help those who are unable to be in Jerusalem to place notes in the Wall.

For years, young campers at Jewish summer camps in the US have sent their prayers to Jerusalem with an Israeli staff member, who then would place them in the Wall.

More recently, the official Western Wall website introduced a feature that allowed people to compose a note online and have it printed out and put in the cracks.

Every year, thousands of letters are addressed to God and sent to the Wall from around the world; the Israeli postal service delivers and places them.

The practice can inspire artistic interpretation as well. In 2011, young Israeli director Vania Heymann filmed an artistic version of the notes being delivered and later removed. In the clip below, people write various wishes or prayers and place them in the Wall. Later, a single person, working on his own, is seen taking a bag full of notes and dumping them outside the Old City walls. In reality, the notes are treated with more respect.