Tishrei 17, 5770, 05 October 09
by Hana Levi Julian
Some 30,000 Jews streamed into the Western Wall plaza early Monday morning to attend the traditional Birkat HaKohanim - the blessing bestowed by the Jewish priestly class, the Kohanim, on the People of Israel, during the morning prayer service.
The special blessing is performed during the three festivals in which Jews are enjoined to make a pilgrimage "up to" Jerusalem, the Holy City. The ceremony was performed in the presence of numerous Chief Rabbis, past and present, including Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, and the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. Israel National News TV was also there, and broadcast the event live.
Rabbi Rabinovitch said that the massive flood of people that packed into the site proved that all Jews feel a sense of belonging, a deep connection to the site, regardless of whether they are observant or secular. The Wall, he emphasized, is at its core the spiritual home of every Jew.
Police have announced that the Old City has been closed to vehicular traffic throughout the week, and that the Western Wall may be reached only through public transportation. The Jerusalem municipality will provide special shuttles to and from main parking lots around the city and the Western Wall plaza in order to minimize the traffic congestion in the area.
Hundreds of thousands of people visit the Western Wall and other parts of the Old City during the holiday week of Sukkot, including many tourists for whom attendance at events on the site are the culmination of the dream of a lifetime.