Passover priestly blessing at Western Wall adapts to COVID-19 restrictions

This year, the ceremony that attracts thousands of worshipers on the third day of the Jewish holiday is taking place over the course of two days.

By Hanan Greenwood, Israel Hayom via JNS

Every year on the third day of Passover, thousands of worshippers gather at Jerusalem’s Western Wall plaza to attend a special “priestly blessing” prayer.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the limited attendance allowed at the site, the prayer is taking place on both the second and third days of Passover—Monday and Tuesday.

Last year’s ceremony included only 10 priests, known in Hebrew as kohanim, residents of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. This year’s ceremony marks the first time since the outbreak of the virus that kohanim across Israel will be allowed to participate in the traditional event.

As is the case every year, the ceremony is attended by top religious and political leaders, among them Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Religious Affairs Minister Ya’akov Avitan and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation asked worshipers who attended the ceremony on Monday to refrain from doing so again on Tuesday, to enable others to participate.

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The priestly blessing at the Western Wall dates back to 1931. It is traditionally held twice a year, on Passover and Sukkot.