JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of worshippers packed Jerusalem’s Western Wall plaza on Wednesday to receive a blessing from members of Judaism’s priestly caste.
Holding prayers shawls above their heads and covering their faces, the priests, known as “Kohanim” in Hebrew, began chanting the blessing, which begins: “The Lord bless you and keep you”.
The ceremony is held during the Jewish holidays of Passover and Sukkot, the latter of which is being celebrated this week.
The Kohanim on Wednesday included the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
“It’s my opportunity to bless the people of Israel,” Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, told reporters.
According to Jewish tradition, Kohanim are descendants of Aaron, Moses’s brother, whose offspring served as priests in the biblical temples of Jerusalem. Many Jews with surnames such as Cohen, Kahan and Katz are Kohanim.
The Western Wall is a remnant of the compound of the Second Temple that was destroyed in 70 AD. It stands today beneath a religious plaza known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller)