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Thousands Visit Kotel but Temple Mount Closed to Jews

The traditional Birkat Hakohanim, or priestly blessing, is expected to draw tens of thousands Thursday.
By Uzi Baruch
First Publish: 4/16/2014, 12:36 PM

Police on the Temple Mount
Police on the Temple Mount
Yehuda Glick

Birkat Hakohanim, the traditional priestly blessing ceremony, is expected to bring tens of thousands of Jews to the Western Wall (Kotel) Plaza Thursday, but the Temple Mount itself has been closed off to Jews and will likely remain that way on Thursday, too.

The Western Wall is a remainder of the outer perimeter wall that enclosed the Temple Mount in ancient times.

Activists from the Western Wall Heritage Fund worked strenuously in recent days to clean the Kotel Plaza, as well as the adjacent prayer halls, Kotel tunnels and the Chain of Generations Center.

The Women's Section of the Plaza has been considerably enlarged, in comparison to previous years. In addition, two new rooms that have been built inside it will make it possible for women to pray at the Kotel with a roof over their heads and shelter from the elements. The temporary structures are due to be replaced by permanent ones later on.

Rest facilities have also been improved, with the temporary restrooms now serving women only, and permanent facilities inside the construction site serving men.

Dozens of rest stalls have also been placed by the Western Wall Heritage Fund throughout the Old City, and along the roads that lead up to the Kotel.

Hundreds of police officers have been stationed at and around the Kotel, alongside privately employed security guards, to protect the people visiting the Old City and the Western Wall.

The Old City and its approaches have been sealed off to civilian vehicles and the public is requested to use public transport to reach the area.