Israel's Western Wall Packed for Aaronic Blessing

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JERUSALEM -- Thousands of Israelis and Jews from around the world packed the Western Wall Plaza during the Sukkot holiday to participate in an ancient biblical tradition called the Birkat Hakohanim, or priestly blessing.

"It's the holiest site on earth. It's one of the largest Jewish gatherings for a prayer service. How could we miss it?" asked one man who travelled from the United States for the blessing.

One 18-year-old American girl, who is studying in Israel said, "God is right here with us and to see it live here is an amazing special thing to see."

In the book of Numbers, God commands Moses and Aaron to bless the children of Israel.

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace," one Israeli woman said.

The Aaronic benediction, or blessing, is part of Jewish prayers every day in Israel. But during Sukkot, Jewish people gather from around the world at the Western Wall to receive this ancient blessing.

"It's an unforgettable experience since there were so many people united, praying one of the most important blessings of the Jewish community and everybody receiving the blessing," a Jewish religious studies student from Mexico said.

Jewish men who are believed to be of the priestly line come to bless the people of Israel -- and the more who come to bless and be blessed, the better.

"Everyone comes together for the holiday, and if everyone comes it's a better blessing and we're all trying to grab the blessing," another Jewish religious studies student said.

With the Iranian nuclear threat looming and trouble elsewhere in the Middle East, many say the blessing is just as important this year.

"Of course it's important," the Israeli woman replied. "But last year it was important. Next year it's important."

"Today we're living in a time of turmoil where there's a tendency of the Islamic world," observed one man who immigrated to Israel from the United States 45 years ago. "They want to destroy Israel and here you can see the faith of the Jewish people that this will never happen."

*Original broadcast Oct. 8, 2012.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

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