For the first time ever, 'Second Hakafot' took place at the Western Wall Thursday night.
Israeli Jews celebrated the holiday of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah) on Wednesday night and Thursday, while Jews in the Diaspora celebrate them on two separate days. During Simchat Torah, Jews dance with Torah scrolls in dances that are referred to as 'Hakafot.'
Many of the Jews from the Diaspora who visit Israel for the holiday thus celebrate Simchat Torah on Thursday night and Friday this year. And many Israelis, although it is not a holiday for them anymore, also dance with the Torah once again at what they call the 'Second Hakafot," increasingly popular because the bands and live music forbidden on the holiday are very much in evidence.
Thousands of Jews participated in 'Second Hakafot' at the Western Wall Thursday night, held by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The event marked the first time an official 'Second Hakafot' ceremony was held at the Western Wall. Other Second Hakafot take place in town centers and most notably at Beit HaRav Kook in central Jerusalem.
The decision to hold a large-scale official event was made following Simchat Torah last year, when several hundred people arrived at the Western Wall to hold impromptu Second Hakafot.
There are more than 100 Torah scrolls at the Western Wall which can be used by worshipers.
The Western Wall Foundation also noted that 1.5 million people visited the Western Wall during the Hebrew months of Elul and Tishrei, during which the High Holidays take place.