The traditional mass priestly blessing (Birkat Kohanim) at the Western Wall ran in a limited format this Passover due to the coronavirus restrictions.Every year, on the second intermediate day of Passover and Sukkot, tens of thousands of people usually crowd the Western Wall Plaza to receive a blessing from hundreds of priests (Kohanim). However, due to social distancing directives, only a quorum of 10 Kohanim will be present, maintaining the proper distance between themselves. Instead, thousands of people watched the prayer service from afar online. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation said, “We invite the thousands of participants who come every year and the general public to join the prayers from home.”The priestly blessing of the morning service (Shaharit) began at 9.05 a.m. with the blessings of the additional festival service (Mussaf) scheduled for 9.55 a.m.US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a Kohen, participated in the service after following the strictest guidelines as stipulated by the Israeli and US governments and after both governments approved his participation.Friedman decided to participate as a way to show hope - to the embassy team as well as the people of Israel - that the world will succeed in overcoming this crisis.“I will pray that the world is spared further illness or sorrow from COVID-19 or otherwise,” Friedman tweeted.
At the end of the service, the Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Kotel and holy sites, acknowledged Friedman's presence and said a prayer for all Americans to be spared from the coronavirus.