Some 500,000 people have participated in slihot prayers at the Western Wall since the beginning of the month of Elul, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation announced on Thursday.

Thousands more arrived Thursday night for the final penitential prayer service before Yom Kippur, in which Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef participated along with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.

Throughout the month of Elul and especially in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, tens of thousands came to the site – individually, as families or as part of an organized group – to recite the traditional prayers said at this time of year.

“This dramatic spectacle of the masses of the Jewish people thronging to the Western Wall is an impressive testimony and is an honor for the people of Israel and [demonstrates] its affinity to its traditions and inheritance and to the remnant of our Temple,” said Rabinowitz.

“It is hard not to be moved by the strength of these images, which demonstrate the true strength of the the Jewish people.”

Meanwhile, the Or Yisraeli youth organization held a slihot service Wednesday night at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai in Meron in the Galilee.

Approximately 7,000 members of the youth movement attended midnight prayers, prior to which the group’s founder and president, Israel Prize laureate Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, addressed the crowd.

Grossman told the assembled that their gathering in the middle of the night to seek closeness to God was a source of great pleasure to the Creator.

Or Yisraeli has 150 branches around the country with 10,000 members and “seeks to impart Jewish values and traditions to the country’s youth.”

Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Grinboim, its chairman, said it was an intense event that would stay with the participants for years to come.

“The prayer service at the foot of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai was an incredibly rousing experience, which is hard to put in to words,” he declared.

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