The annual Birchat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing
at the Kotel, the Western Wall, on Chol HaMoed Sukkot,
is known to attract large crowds.
Entering the Old City by way of the Jaffa Gate the crowds looked normal,
with the plaza all ready for a large Sukkot holiday fair.
The Muslim Shuk was set for the Jewish crowd, with talitot for sale
and there was even an Israeli flag on display.
I started out late, and was surprised to find that
the route to the security entrance was not the one I usually take.
The crowd grew and waited very impatiently;
there was nearly a riot as security personnel would let no one in.
It was very hot, uncomfortable and impossible to move,
then the crushing crowd surged forward and pushed everyone along.
Inside the plaza area I saw the regular crowded holiday scenes,
with people as far as you could see, both to the right
and to the left.
The Kotel, the Western Wall is usually packed with people on Sukkot,
and certainly for the Birchat Kohanim.
there were people watching
stairwells and small passages.
There seemed to be fewer kohanim
with arms raised and covered by white talitot, but
there were hundreds of raised arms taking photos on their cellphones.
After the blessing, the trick was to find a way to leave,
again pushing through the crowds.
At least this man found some solitude
in the sukkah on the roof of Aish HaTorah.
Regular folks grabbed whatever spot they could,
while others slowly proceeded out to the Jewish Quarter.
I thought that I was finished with the crowds, but then I went to Beit Hanasi
for the Israeli President’s annual open sukkah.
Wow, was I wrong–but those photos
will have to wait for later, as there are more crowds
again on the streets for the Jerusalem Parade.
Whatever estimates you see quoted for this year’s Birchat Kohanim,
they will have to be low if they do not include the thousands
who were outside the plaza area and unable to get in.
Moadim L’Simcha !