Thousands of Jewish congregants gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem today and yesterday, to participate in the Priestly Blessing ceremony.
The benediction is conducted the descendants of Hebrew Priests known as the Kohenim, whose forefather was the biblical Aaron.
Easing of coronavirus restrictions facilitated the holding of the blessing for the first time in more than a year and a half. Only a small symbolic quorum of ten was allowed to hold the special prayer during the requisite Jewish festivals since the outbreak of the pandemic.
In accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines, the worshippers were separated into pods by clear plastic barriers and told to observe proper social distancing measures. The event was also spread out over the course of 2 days to avoid over-congestion.
The service is traditionally performed before tens of thousands during Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot, in accordance with the biblical commandment for the ancient Israelites to come up to the holy temple in Jerusalem during these three pilgrimage festivals of. Text of the blessing is found in Numbers 6:23–27, with a notable passage reading: “May God bless and keep you, may His glory shine upon you and may He give you peace.”
Thousands of police were deployed to the Temple Mount area to provide security for the visitors and help maintain open access on routes to the Western Wall Plaza.
The Western Wall is a 57-meter (187 foot) long section of a far longer ancient retaining barrier outside the Second Temple built as part of an expansion initiative Herod the Great, on the ruins of the First Temple.
The Priestly Blessing is the oldest known Biblical text from the Hebrew Bible ever discovered, inscribed on tiny silver scrolls believed to have once been amulets. The archeological treasures were unearthed in 1979 at a burial chamber in Ketef Hinnom just outside the Old City, and date back to the late 7th to early 6th century AD.