Tens of Thousands Participate in Kotel Blessing Ceremony

Tens of thousands showed up for Birkat Hakohanim despite the violence at Temple Mount the day before.

Birkat Hakohanim at the Western Wall in 2007 (Pierre Terdjman)
Birkat Hakohanim at the Western Wall in 2007. Pierre Terdjman

Tens of thousands of people participated in the "Priestly blessing" ceremony at the Western Wall on Thursday morning, despite the violent clashes between Israeli police forces and Palestinians the day before at next-door Temple Mount.

During the blessing ceremony, Birkat Hakohanim, which takes place each year, vehicle access to that area of the Old City of Jerusalem is closed down.
Ambulance teams took care of 35 people who fainted or fell ill during the Thursday morning ritual. Two were evacuated to hospital.

Meanwhile, security forces remained on high alert in the area and at Temple Mount, where 20 Palestinians and one policeman people had been mildly injured in the clashes the day before. Six Palestinians were arrested over Wednesday night on suspicion of participation in the violence. The police have meanwhile closed Temple Mount to visitors.

The Palestinians had come to Temple Mount on Tuesday and barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, aware of the Israel Police policy of not entering the site. They threw stones piled up there in advance, and Molotov cocktails, at the Israeli police forces. The police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protesters.

After the clashes subsided, the police allowed a number of groups of Jews onto the Temple Mount; hundreds of visitors were turned away.

The priestly blessing or priestly benediction, is based on a blessing by Aaron and his sons for he Israelites, as brought in Numbers 6:24-6:26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”