US Ambassador David Friedman was among hundreds who recited the “priestly blessing” at the biannual ceremony at the Western Wall, attended by a record 100,000 worshipers and onlookers.
An estimated 100,000 men and women gathered on Monday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City for Birkat HaKohanim,’ the priestly blessings, a public ceremony that takes place biannually.
Twice a year, during the Sukkot and Passover festivals, masses of Israelis and tourists witness the event, filling the Western Wall plaza beyond capacity. This year, US Ambassador David Friedman was among the hundreds of Kohanim, members of the priestly tribe of Israel, who recited the prayers.
The Western Wall is the outer wall of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, and the closest spot where masses of Jews are permitted to pray adjacent to the compound. The Temple Mount, where the two Jewish temples once stood, is now administered by the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic trust.
Friedman, a Kohen himself, told Israel Radio that he attended the ceremony with his son and grandson, and they all recited the prayers.
This tradition at the Western Wall was initiated by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gafner during the War of Attrition in the 1970s. Considering the impact and power that the priestly blessing holds, even following the destruction of the Holy Temples, he decided to offer Kohanim and others to partake in this mass gathering in order to bless the Jewish People and the State of Israel.
According to tradition, the Kohanim are patrilineal descendants of Aaron, the first High Priest and older brother of Moses, and were Divinely chosen to work in the Tabernacle and serve as priests in the Holy Temple.