During the Hebrew month of Elul and the Jewish holiday season of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, the Western Wall – the Kotel – was visited by millions of people, with thousands taking part in the main prayer sessions, as well as hundreds of thousands who visited Jerusalem and the Western Wall during the Sukkot holiday. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation estimated that over 2 million people visited the Kotel Plaza.
This figure is not surprising.
The year Elul, the last month of the year, began on August 28. In the run up to the Rosh Hashanah New Year holiday and through Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – numerous people went to the Kotel for the daily special prayers for atonement called selichot. And then there were all of the people who went to the Western Wall for the holiday prayers.
The Tishrei holiday season is one in which numerous Jews from around the world come to Israel to celebrate at least one of the holidays in the Holy Land and these people come to visit the Kotel. And Israelis are on vacation, with schools closed for the entire weeklong Sukkot holiday, so many come to visit the Western Wall and tour Jerusalem on their vacations.
The holiday of Sukkot, which concluded in Israel on Monday evening, is also a celebration for many Christian groups who celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacle. Thousands came from around the world to celebrate the holiday in Israel and visit the Kotel.
And on the intermittent days of the Sukkot holiday known as “Hol Hamoed” the Kotel hosts a priestly blessing ceremony, commemorating the same ceremony which the masses attended thousands of years ago when the Temple still stood.
Also, 50,000 people alone attended this year’s traditional Hakhel reenactment and Simchat Beit Hashoeivah ceremony at the Kotel, which was held last Wednesday.
The ceremony was held in the presence of President Isaac Herzog, whose grandfather Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog revived the ceremony about 80 years ago, the Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau, the Rabbi of the Kotel and the Holy Places Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Leon, US Ambassador in Israel Thomas Nides, and other public figures.
On the night of Hoshana Rabbah, Saturday night, tens of thousands flocked to the Western Wall, as well as on Monday’s Simchat Torah holiday and the second Hakafot celebration that was observed Monday night after the holiday’s end. This is when people dance with the Tora scrolls seven times.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation: “We conclude this period with great satisfaction and express great appreciation to the dedicated employees of the foundation and the security and police forces who made great efforts to facilitate the arrival of 2 million people in the last two months and to maintain the safety and security of those coming to the Western Wall.”
The rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Places Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz Shlita exclaimed that the million who flocked to the Western Wall over the past seven weeks, “testify to the power of the Western Wall as a place that captures and unites, something that was expressed in the wonderful unity that existed during this period at the Western Wall. This is a moving testimony that expresses the hope and faith of the people in his legacy.”