Thousands of people attended the traditional priestly blessing event at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Traditionally, Jewish pilgrims make their way twice a year to the Western Wall on the intermediate days of the Passover and Sukkot festivals, with crowds of men and women spilling out from the Wall’s plaza to surrounding areas.
Last Sukkot, the priestly blessing was held, but with a greatly reduced number of participants due to still high numbers of virus infections and Israel’s general population under a restrictive lockdown. At the Passover event in April 2020, just 10 people were symbolicly permitted to gather at the Western Wall to perform the ceremony.
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.
Hundreds of police and Border Police were deployed in the Old City to secure access routes to the event and the many visitors were expected to the Old City during the day.
Vehicle entry to the area and along some surrounding roads was stopped to further enable movement of those arriving at the site, Israel Police said. Police asked the public to avoid driving to the area and instead use public transport, as well as requesting participants wear masks during the mass gathering.