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.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion attended Monday morning’s ceremony, which was held under tight security, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. Roselfeld said security forces beefed up security in and around Jerusalem’s Old City last week ahead of the Passover festival, which this year coincides with Easter.
Many of the roads near the Old City were closed to private vehicles on Monday and traffic throughout the city was expected to be very heavy due to the festival.