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As Jews prepare for the upcoming High Holidays, engineers on Tuesday began getting the holy site ready for the thousands of visitors expected.
Engineers inspect the Western Wall in Jerusalem for safety on Aug. 29, 2023. Workers check the integrity and clean the stones ahead of the Rosh HaShanah and Passover holidays. Photo by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation
The engineers, working for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the site’s daily affairs, examined the integrity of the stones of the Western Wall, removing loose stones and seasonal plants.
The inspection is done twice a year, ahead of the Passover and Rosh Hashanah holidays for the safety of visitors and to maintain the wall’s structural integrity. The work is done under the supervision of the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Places Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz in accordance with religious law.
In July 2018, a boulder weighing 100 kilograms became dislodged from the wall and fell, just missing a 79-year-old woman praying there.
According to the foundation, more than half-million people visited the Western Wall during Passover last April.
Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year, begins on Sept. 15 at sundown, while Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement begins on the night of Sept. 24. The week-long holiday of Sukkot begins at nightfall on Sept. 29.
Ahead of the Passover and Rosh Hashanah holidays, workers also clean the Western Wall’s stones and remove the thousands of notes written to God which visitors place between the stones.
The practice stems from Jewish teachings that God’s presence never left the Western Wall and that prayers ascend to heaven through the adjoining Temple Mount.
People unable to visit also write notes on the Foundation’s website which are placed in the wall by staff.
Notes removed by workers are buried.
One Sukkot highlight is when thousands of Jews visit the Western Wall for the Priestly Blessing where hundreds of kohanim, descendants of Aaron the Priest, give a traditional benediction.
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is the only remnant of a retaining wall encircling the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great and is the holiest site where Jews can freely pray. The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were built, is the overall holiest site in Judaism.
For centuries, Jews did not visit the hilltop esplanade because of a rabbinic consensus that laws of ritual purity still apply to the Temple Mount. But in recent years, a growing number of rabbis have argued that ritual purity laws don’t apply to all sections of the Temple Mount and encourage visits to permitted areas to maintain Jewish connections to the Mount.
More than 2,000 Jews visited the Temple Mount during the initial days of Passover before security officials restricted access to the holy site.
Tags: kotel, rosh hashanah, western wall
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