Tens of thousands flock to Western Wall for priestly blessing
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Tens of thousands flock to Western Wall for priestly blessing

Ceremony sees male descendants of the Kohanim priestly caste gather to bestow a benediction during the Sukkot festival

Tens of thousands of Jews gathered Wednesday at Jerusalem’s Western Wall for a special “priestly blessing” held under heavy police guard.

The priestly blessing was part of the weeklong festival of Sukkot, or Feast of the Tabernacles, which in antiquity was a time of pilgrimage.

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.

Many of the roads near the Old City were closed to private vehicles and traffic throughout the city was very heavy due to the festival.

Police said that a large number of officers were deployed around the city in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the public amid heightened tensions.

Jewish worshipers perform prayers during the festival of Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacles) at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 26, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / AG / AHMAD GHARABLI)

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which oversees the holy site, estimated that 100,000 people attended two ceremonies in the morning.

They included US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, himself a member of the Jewish priestly caste.

“It’s my opportunity to bless the people of Israel,” he told reporters ahead of the services.

Friedman also used the opportunity to praise US President Donald Trump’s “excellent” speech on Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly.

“I thought he laid out a very clear vision,” he said. “It’s consistent with what he’s been saying since he’s been the president about how he thinks the United States relates with the rest of the world.”

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