The Western Wall's chief rabbi and a team of workers on Wednesday cleared from its ancient cracks notes to God left by worshippers to make room for new ones ahead of Rosh Hashanah.
Western Wall staff used brooms and wooden sticks so as not to harm the ancient stones of the holy site, revered by Jews as a perimeter wall of the Temple.
Millions of people visit the Western Wall every year, leaving written prayers on pieces of paper wedged into the cracks of the ancient worship site.
Shmuel Rabinowitz, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, and his team collect hundreds of thousands of notes twice a year: before Rosh Hashanah, which begins next week, and before Passover.
"Today we clear the notes," Rabinowitz said. "There are notes by millions of people, Jews and non-Jews who put them in the stones of the Western Wall. In every note there is a request, a wish, a prayer for God. This place, more than any other place in the world, is suitable for a prayer to God."
Rabinowitz and his team place the old notes in bags -- without reading them -- and bury them on the Mount of Olives, said the Western Wall rabbi. In Jewish tradition, holy texts are buried rather than thrown away.
He said in each collection there are enough to fill about 100 shopping bags, each with thousands of notes.
Some letters are sent to the wall by fax or email, often for a small fee, he added.
Leaving notes of prayers and pleas has been adopted by members of many faiths around the world. It is very common for Christian pilgrims travelling through the Old City of Jerusalem to stop by the Western Wall and leave a note, the rabbi said.
The Western Wall is a remnant of the compound of the Second Temple that was destroyed in 70 AD. It stands today beneath a religious plaza known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
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