Workers clean out old notes from the Western Wall ahead of the Passover holiday.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Western Wall's chief rabbi cleared notes sent to God by worshippers on Sunday from ancient cracks in the Western Wall, ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Millions of people visit the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, every year, leaving written prayers on pieces of paper wedged into the cracks of the ancient stones.
As chief rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz makes sure there is room for future prayers. Twice a year, his team collects the hundreds of thousands of notes and buries them.
"It is almost Passover and for months, people have been putting in their requests to the Creator of the world. We pray that God will hear their prayers. This is the place where King Solomon asked that God should hear every prayer, every request, of every person," said Rabbi Rabinowitz.
Some letters are sent to the wall by fax or email -- often for a small fee.
Rabinowitz said he places hundreds of letters a year received by the post office addressed simply to "God in Jerusalem."
The men use sticks to prevent harm to the ancient stones, extracting thousands of small notes from the cracks in the wall.
"It is written in the Torah not to put iron on the alter on sacred things. Iron is something that kills; iron is something that destroys. We use wood, something that doesn't desecrate, doesn't hurt, doesn't destroy. That is what they did at (the time of) the temple and that is what we do here," added Rabinowitz
At most hours of the day the Western Wall is lined with people deep in prayer. Many lean forward and touch their foreheads to the stones. With eyes closed, they whisper their wishes and kiss the wall when they have finished praying. The custom of leaving notes of prayer and pleas has been adopted by members of many faiths around the world.
"This place is a sacred place to the Jewish people.... This is the wall of their tears. Generations upon generations dreamt about reaching this place," said Rabinowitz.
The Western Wall is a remnant of the compound of the Second Temple that was destroyed in 70 CE. It stands today beneath a religious plaza known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The entire wall stretches for about 500 meters (1,650 feet), although much of it is concealed underground. The exposed part where people gather to pray is about 50 meters (165 feet) long and about 15 meters (50 feet) high.