Tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims made their way to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday for a twice-annual mass blessing ceremony, held under heavy police guard.
The blessing was recited twice on Monday morning, one of the intermediate days of the Passover festival, with crowds of men and women spilling out from the Wall’s plaza to surrounding areas.
The ceremony, which sees male descendants of the Kohanim priestly caste gather to bestow a benediction, involves the raising of hands to perform the blessing, with those conducting the blessing wrapped in prayer shawls.
The Western Wall is the closest spot to the Temple Mount where Jews can pray. Though they may visit the Mount, where the two ancient Jewish temples stood, Jews are not allowed to pray at the holy site, which is overseen by a Jordanian custodian.
Posted by Yehudah Glick on Monday, April 2, 2018
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, himself of the priestly caste, was one of the hundreds who gave the blessing.
Speaking to Kan news, Freidman said that he came to the ceremony with his son and grandson, and the three generations of priests all participated.
Following the blessing the country’s two chief rabbis, David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, were expected to host a reception alongside the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch.
Many of the roads near the Old City were closed to private vehicles and traffic throughout the city was expected to be very heavy due to the festival.
Police said that a large number of officers were deployed around the city, in particular at known flashpoints, in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the public amid heightened tensions.
On March 18 a Palestinian terrorist fatally stabbed Adiel Kolman, a 32-year-old father of four from the Kochav Hashachar settlement, in the Old City not far from the Western Wall.
And recent days have seen increased concerns of violence following a massive protest along the Gaza border Friday, in which 16 Palestinians were reportedly killed.