Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Thousands of Jews attend priestly blessing at Western Wall

Thousands of Jewish faithful flocked early on Wednesday to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City to receive the traditional Priestly Blessing from the Kohanim, or Hebrew priests.

The ritual, known as Birkat Kohanim, was carried out by hundreds of members of the hereditary priestly caste that is believed to descend from Aaron, Moses' older brother and the first High Priest mentioned in the Torah.

The ceremony, officiated by men with the last name Cohen, is part of the greater Jewish pilgrimage festival known as Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles.

The Sukkot holiday, which lasts for seven days in Israel, commemorates the etiological myth of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt and the dependence of the People of Israel on the will of God, based on a "mitzvot" (commandment) found in the Book of Leviticus.

During Sukkot, many Jews travel to Jerusalem's Western Wall _ believed to be the last remnant of Herod's Second Temple _ to pray, especially on the day of the mass blessing that is Birkat Kohanim, which is only performed at the Wall on one other yearly occasion: the spring festival of Pesach (Passover).

Due to the large number of people attending the ceremonies at the Wailing Wall, which is located within East Jerusalem _ a Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 _ numerous special police units were deployed throughout the historic city.

"Police and Border Police units are patrolling the Old City and its surroundings," said Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Jerusalem has recently become the epicenter of several knife attacks carried out by Palestinian and Jordanian attackers against Israeli security forces.

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