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Thousands of Israelis Pack Western Wall Plaza to Bless and Be Blessed

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Thousands of Israelis and Jewish pilgrims from around the world packed the Western Wall Plaza, Wednesday as part of the Sukkot holiday participating in an ancient biblical tradition.

For the first time since the COVID lockdowns, masses of Jewish people streamed through Jerusalem’s Old City streets to reach the Western Wall, as Jewish prayers and songs rang out.

About 50,000 came to take part in the Birkat HaCohenim or Priestly Blessing.

“Today is an amazing day. It’s the holiday of Succoth – a holiday actually that came to us in the desert,” said Shmuel Blatner, an Orthodox Jewish visitor from France. 

In the Book of Numbers, God gives Moses and Aaron these words to bless the children of Israel:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

While the Aaronic benediction or blessing is a daily part of Jewish prayers, this public tradition happens twice a year -- during Sukkot and Passover.

“It’s one of the three pilgrimage festivals, that we are called to go up on foot, to ascend to the Temple in the days it existed. Now we only have the Kotel (Western Wall) remaining from the Temple. We are keeping the holiday that was on foot,” Blatner told CBN News.

Jewish men believed to be part of the priestly line (called cohenim) come to bless the people of Israel.  Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was among those who blessed the people.

“The priests in the time of the Temple received the job to bless the people of Israel. Today actually, they are gathering together thousands of Cohenim here to bless all the people of Israel,” Blatner said.

In 2020, many Christians worldwide became more acquainted with the blessing during COVID when international artists translated and sang the Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes version of this song over their nations.

According to the Jewish people, every blessing is covered by it – from peace to abundance, to good health.

Another part of the prayers comes from Leviticus 23 where it says to bring “the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook” and rejoice before the Lord.

That’s why you see branches waved from the palm, willow, and myrtle trees as well as the citron fruit.

And the more that come to bless and be blessed, the better.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and