1000s at Western Wall for Jewish holiday prayer

2015-09-30 17:41
Covered in prayer shawls, Jewish men participate in a blessing in front of the Western Wall. (Oded Balilty, AP)

Covered in prayer shawls, Jewish men participate in a blessing in front of the Western Wall. (Oded Balilty, AP)

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Jerusalem - Tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers massed at Jerusalem's Western Wall on Wednesday as part of celebrations for the Sukkot holiday, organisers said, while tensions in the area diminished.

Known as the Priestly Blessing, the ceremony involved Jews from the Cohanim priestly caste gathering to bless crowds marking Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation said that over 50 000 people participated in the blessings, which were held three times during the morning.

Hundreds of Cohanim draped in traditional white prayer shawls held their arms in the air to bless the crowds, reciting words from the biblical Book of Numbers.

The Western Wall is a remnant of a supporting wall of the Second Temple complex which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Above it lies the plaza where the temple once stood and which now houses the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam. It is the holiest site to Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

The site is located in east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

A series of clashes has erupted between police and Palestinians at the mosque complex in recent weeks during the Jewish high holidays, but Wednesday's events were mainly calm.

Previous clashes have also spilled over into Palestinian neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem. Police have toughened measures against stone-throwers while carrying out arrests on a daily basis.

On Wednesday, police arrested three women and a minor accused of attacking police and disrupting order in the Old City.

Since the start of Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish new year, on September 13, 174 Palestinian suspects - 79 of them minors - have been arrested, police said on Wednesday.

Sukkot, which began at sundown on Sunday, is a week-long holiday to commemorate the Jewish journey through the Sinai wilderness to the Holy Land after their exodus from Egyptian slavery. It is one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals when Jews traditionally visit Jerusalem.

Read more on:    israel  |  religion

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