Semi-annual event passed without a hitch despite security concerns.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
Despite concerns of Palestinian violence, thousands of Jews thronged to the Western Wall on Monday for the traditional priestly blessing, or birkat cohanim.
Police braced for a continuation off Sunday’s violence, when a bus carrying worshippers to the Wall was stoned by Palestinians.
But the Priestly blessing passed without a hitch. According to Hebrew media reports the even was secured by 2,500 police officers.
Turnout was lower than usual though not only due to the possibility of disturbances.
Amid concerns for overcrowding at the Western Wall plaza, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which is responsible for the holy site, will also hold the event again on Wednesday. A stampede at an overcrowded Lag B’Omer celebration in Meron killed 45 people and injured 150 last year.
The benediction is given by kohanim, the descendants of Aharon the Priest. Despite the destruction of the Jewish Temples, the kohanim give this blessing every day in the land of Israel in individual synagogues. Outside of the Holy Land, kohanim only give it on major holidays.
But during the holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, the Western Wall’s event has been attracting thousands of Jews for years. Israel’s Chief Rabbis, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef participated with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Rabbi of the Wall.
Palestinians clashes with Israeli security forces have been fueled by Palestinian Authority rumors and incitement claiming that Israel intends to divide the Temple Mount into Jewish and Muslim areas like at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
According to a Dutch study cited by the Jerusalem Post, Ramadan brought with it a 200% increase in terrorist attacks in Israel between 2005 and 2016.”
The Temple Mount is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the ancient Jewish Temples.
Under a longstanding but informal arrangement known as the status quo, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there. The agreement has broken down in recent years as large groups of Jews, including religious nationalists, have regularly visited and prayed at the site. The Israeli government says it is committed to maintaining the status quo.
The Western Wall is a remnant of a retaining wall around the Temple Mount built by King Herod.
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