A record number of people, a vast majority of them Jews, visited the Kotel (Western Wall) plaza over the Pesach (Passover) holiday. According to the Kotel Heritage Fund and the Israel Police, more than 600,000 people from all Jewish streams – secular and religious, young and old – visited the ancient remnant of the outer wall that surrounded the Temple Mount.
The Kotel authorities say that the stream of visitors to the Wall this year was much larger than in previous years, and that people kept on coming 24 hours a day, many walking from the Jaffa Gate and the markets, the Shechem (Damascus) Gate and the Jewish Quarter, and many others by bus or taxi. Private vehicles were not allowed into the Old City for the entire period.
Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich commended the police for securing the Kotel area and the approaches to it. “These statistics point to the fact that that the Kotel is a spiritual home for all of the world's Jews, without any barrier or difference in status, and I hope that this trend will continue and that there will not be a single Jewish boy or girl who does not visit the Kotel,” he said.
The number 600,000 is considered to have spiritual significance in the Jewish faith, and is especially relevant to Pesach, in which the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt is marked. According to the Bible, this was the number of Jewish adult men who participated in the Exodus.
The number has also been associated with the impending salvation of Israel, with some mystically-inclined commentators noting that the number of Jews in the newly declared State of Israel in 1948 was roughly 600,000, and that the number of IDF soldiers in the Six Day War was also about the same.
The First Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians after standing for hundreds of years, as recounted in the Book of Kings. The Second Jewish Temple, which sat atop the Temple Mount, was sacked and destroyed by Roman legions in 70 CE. When Islam appeared on the scene in the 7th century, Muslims conquered Jerusalem and built mosques atop the Temple Mount. Some Muslims now deny that the Jewish Temples ever existed, despite Biblical books, historical records and archaeological proofs to the contrary.