search
Kotel kleaningKotel kleaning

Purging prayers from the Wall

Passover approaches and the Wailing Wall’s wish list gets reset

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

After removal, the thousands of notes are buried on the nearby Mount of Olives. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
After removal, the thousands of notes are buried on the nearby Mount of Olives. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Each year, hundreds of thousands of prayer notes are stuffed into the Western Wall — Judaism’s holiest site — by visitors, tourists, and foreign dignitaries.

Western Wall's Rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, and his helpers remove thousands of handwritten notes placed between the ancient stones of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
The Western Wall's Rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, and his helpers remove thousands of handwritten notes placed between the ancient stones of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The tradition of placing notes in the Kotel — as the Western Wall is known in Hebrew — dates back to the early 18th century.

The operation is carried out twice each year: before the Passover festival which begins next week and at the Jewish New Year in the fall. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
The operation is carried out twice each year: before the Passover festival which begins next week and at the Jewish New Year in the fall. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Twice a year, before Passover and before Rosh Hashanah, the myriad scraps of paper are removed.

Western Wall employees cleaning out thousands of prayer notes. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Western Wall employees cleaning out thousands of prayer notes. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The once-stuffed cracks in the millennia-old, limestone wall are exposed, awaiting fresh wishes, hopes, and prayers.

An estimated one million notes are placed in the wall each year. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
An estimated one million notes are placed in the wall each year. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

When they first arrive, letters addressed to “God, Jerusalem” are wedged into the wall by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the site’s caretaker, who also attends to cleaning the notes out when the time comes.

After removal, the thousands of notes are buried on the nearby Mount of Olives. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
After removal, the thousands of notes are buried on the nearby Mount of Olives. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed