IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi paid a visit to the Western Wall on Sunday night to offer prayers of thanksgiving for the miracles and successes in the recent Cast Lead operation in Gaza.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, entrusted with rabbinical supervision of the holy sites on behalf of the government, hosted Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi and took part in the prayers. Afterwards, a festive thanksgiving meal was held in the Hashmonaim Hall, to the left (north) of the uncovered section of the Western Wall.  Additional prayers and songs of thanksgiving and praise were recited there.

Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi also prayed for the speedy return of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza for 2.5 years.

It was noted that many prayers had been recited at the Western Wall by parents, soldiers, and Jews all over during the war, and that the time had now come to express thanks for the successes the offensive had reaped.

Ashkenazi stated that he was there as a representative of all of the soldiers of the IDF, “who fought so well and reached such blessed achievements.”  Rabbi Rabinowitz agreed and said he was also a representative of the entire Jewish Nation, “which thanks G-d for His miracles during the war.”  The rabbi noted the many expressions of faith expressed by the soldiers during the war.

Rabbi Rabinowitz recounted a moving experience from when he met the soldiers of the Haruv Regiment upon their return from Gaza.  “They came first to the Western Wall to offer their thanks, even before they returned home," he said. "Their commanders were there as well, proudly waving the banner of faith and Jewish tradition as they thanked G-d for His miracles.”