70,000 worshippers crowd Kotel for 'Birkat Hakohanim'

Photo Gallery: Yishai, Barkat, Rivlin, Dannino join Chief Ashkenazi rabbi Metzger for Blessing of the Priests during Succot.

More than 70,000 worshipers crowded into the Western Wall plaza on Sunday morning for the Blessing of the Priests, which takes place twice a year, on the intermediate days of Succot and Pessah.
Joining the worshipers was Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, police chief Yochanan Danino, and the Rabbi of the Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz.
Gallery: Jerusalem 'kapparot' rituals in full swing
According to the Western Wall Heritage Fund, the tradition of mass blessings during the two pilgrimage holidays was started by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gefner in 1970, who drew inspiration from the traditional saying that the Messiah will come if 300 kohanim (priests) recite the Blessing of the Priests together.

The holiday season is one of the busiest for the Western Wall. The Western Wall counted more than one million visits for slihot prayers before Yom Kippur, including 35,000 soldiers, who also visited the Western Wall tunnels.
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