The Western Wall Heritage Foundation thanks all the members of the Jewish nation who came to the Kotel during the days of Birkat Kohanim. This year, the Foundation decided to hold the event on two consecutive days, one yesterday and the other this morning (Tuesday) in order to prevent crowding and adhere to Health Ministry regulations regarding the coronavirus. The Foundation wishes to thank the Jerusalem municipality, the Israel Police force, and the WWHF ushers who did their utmost to maintain public order. We particularly thank the public for fulfulling the commandment of pilgrimage and Birkat Kohanim and doing so with decorum.
This year we are marking half a century to the reestablishment of Birkat Kohanim initiated by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gafner zz”l. It has been organized for years by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation during Passover and Sukkot when hundreds of kohanim bless thousands of people who stream to the Kotel with the special blessing from the Torah. In order to maintain current public health regulations and in anticipation of the thousands expected to arrive from around Israel, this year, the traditional Birkat Kohanim was done twice on consecutive days – yesterday and today.
The event took place in the presence of the chief rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef shlita and Rabbi David Lau shlita; the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz; the minister for religious affairs, Rabbi Yaakov Avitan shlita; mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Moshe Leon; and former US ambassador to Israel, Mr. David Friedman who is also a kohen himself.
The service of “accepting the yoke of heaven” took place at the end with prayers by Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Lau. At the end of the service, a special prayer of thanksgiving was recited this morning as well by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz shlita for the state of the pandemic in Israel and a prayer for the wellbeing of the entire world facing the coronavirus.
Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz: “Only one year has passed since only ten kohanim blessed the entire Jewish nation and we are privileged to return to the traditional Birkat Kohanim. Though we are still under strict adherence to the restrictions of the Health Ministry and making sure to take care of the welfare and health of all who come to the Kotel, we pray in the spirit of a “Psalm of thanksgiving,” a psalm of praise and gratitude to the Almighty who blessed His nation with healing from the terrible plague whose end, G-d willing, is getting closer. There are few moments in a person’s life when they witness history in the making. Undoubtedly, this past year was such a time. As the year ends, more than ever, I return to the ancient verses of Birkat Kohanim, heard today at the Western Wall Plaza by thousands of visitors as millions more tuned in from afar, and I derive both comfort and hope from them. Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem.”
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation requests that the public adhere to Health Ministry and Israel Police directives and those of the ushers who will direct crowd control during the entire holiday in order to safeguard the health of all those coming to the Kotel.