Thousands of people gathered at Jerusalem’s Western Wall amid heavy security for the holiday Priestly Blessing.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation estimated Wednesday morning’s crowd at 50,000, while media reports put the number in attendance at between 50,000 and 150,000.
The mass blessing, called Birkat Kohanim in Hebrew, is held on an intermediate day during Sukkot and Passover, two of the three Shalosh Regalim, or pilgrimage festivals, when the Jews would ascend to the Holy Temple. The third is Shavuot. The mass blessing has been held at the Western Wall for the last 45 years.
Hundreds of Kohanim held up their hands and blessed the worshippers, including many visitors from the Diaspora.
The event was presided over by Israel’s chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, and by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel.
More than 3,500 police were deployed across the city for the event to ensure the safety of visitors to Jerusalem, including hundreds at the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, which has been the site of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Muslim worshippers.
Tens of thousands more worshippers are expected to visit the Western Wall on Wednesday evening for the Hakel ceremony, which takes place every seven years at the end of a shmitta, or sabbatical, year.