The annual Priestly Blessing from Jerusalem, chanted by thousands of Kohanim, male descendants of Moses' brother Aaron the Levite, the first High Priest, went forth Wednesday from the Jerusalem's ancient Western Wall (Kotel).
The participants, members of the ancient priestly class of Jews, echo Israel's chief rabbis in blessing the Jewish People -- a ritual which takes place during morning prayers at the Western Wall, attended by thousands, three times a year, during each of the three major festivals in the Jewish calendar – Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot, during which Jews are enjoined to “go up to Jerusalem.”
The ceremony was led by Israeli Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Although the same ritual takes place in synagogues everywhere in Israel daily, the blessing at the Kotel is viewed by millions of Jews around the world via webcams installed above the perimeter of the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza. Outside Israel, the priestly blessing is only given by Kohanim on the first and last days of festivals and not on the intermediate days. Otherwise, it is merely read by the cantor..
Thousands of people began arriving at the Western Wall plaza for the event from the wee hours of the morning in order to ensure they would have a place. No vehicles were allowed into the Old City, and crowds made their way on foot to the ancient site – the only remnant left of the retaining wall of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, and together with the Temple Mount the holiest site on the planet for Jews.
Following the ceremony, the rabbis and other Jewish leaders are set to greet worshipers in the sukkot (temporary holiday booths) set up in the Western Wall plaza area.