For someone who is all about the experience — and Israel — it’s strange that after nearly 20 years, there was an amazing, somewhat regularly occurring experience in Israel that I’d. Never. Had.
Specifically, Birkat Kohanim (priestly blessing). Of course, I’ve experienced the “Priestly Blessings” hundreds (thousands?) of times here in Israel since, unlike in the Diaspora, it is part of the regular, daily services.
But never before had I experienced THE Priestly Blessings. The mass experience at the Western Wall, attended by thousands, held twice a year, on Passover and Sukkot, and performed SIMULTANEOUSLY for the masses, has been described as something incredibly powerful, a sight to behold. And yet I had never personally been there.
For someone who avoids crowds, steers clear of traffic, hates crowded parking lots… and isn’t big on getting up early in the morning, it’s no wonder that I repeatedly missed this quintessential experience. Until now.
This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the usual mass event was held on both Wednesday and Thursday of the intermediate days of Sukkot to allow more people to attend, despite prayer capsules and entry limits to the Western Wall plaza. When a combination of family obligations and other circumstances brought me to Jerusalem anyway, it seemed like the right time to finally be there.
It was hot. Crowded. The parking lots were full… Once there, it was hard to find a place to stand where I could effectively photograph… But… it didn’t matter.
It was beautiful. Meaningful. Inspiring…
Thousands of Jews of every stripe standing together. In one service… A service for everyone.
That experience was worth everything.