Laura Ben-David
Laura Ben-David
Sharing Israel with the world through my lens
Featured Post

PHOTO ESSAY: A priestly blessing

When you don't like traffic or crowds or early mornings, rushing to the Western Wall for Sukkot prayers doesn't sound like a good way to spend your vacation...
Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021. [Laura Ben-David]
Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021. [Laura Ben-David]

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.

Ethiopian Jews with traditional robes, turbans and parasols at Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021 [Laura Ben-David]
Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021 [Laura Ben-David]
A child gets a better view at Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021 [Laura Ben-David]
Carrying the ‘4 Species’ at Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021 [Laura Ben-David]
Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021 [Laura Ben-David]
Making his way through the crowds at Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021 [Laura Ben-David]
Birkat Kohanim, Sukkot 2021 [Laura Ben-David]
About the Author
Laura Ben-David is a photographer, public speaker and Israel advocate. Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken all over the world about Israel, Aliyah and other topics, often with beautiful photographic presentations. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is the director of marketing at Shavei Israel as well as a marketing consultant.
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