Tens of thousands of people flocked to the Kotel (Western Wall) on Wednesday, for the the Birkat HaKohanim (Priestly Blessing) ceremony.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation estimated the Wednesday morning crowd at 50,000, while media reports put the number at between 50,000 and 150,000.
Hundreds of Kohanim, members of the priestly class in Judaism, held up their hands and blessed the worshippers, including many visitors from the Diaspora.
Israel’s chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, presided over the event along with Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel.
Also Wednesday morning, a moving ceremony was held wherein four Torah scrolls were brought to the site ahead of Hakhel, in which all of Israel is meant to gather to hear the Torah read at the Temple Mount once every seven years.
The ceremony was attended by scholars, Israel’s chief rabbis from past and present, and included the traditional ‘welcoming of the Torah’ ceremony, prayers, and a focus on accepting the commandments.
Police reinforcements have been called in ahead of the expected tourist influx.
Hundreds of Border Police and Israel Police officers and volunteers have been working since the early hours of Wednesday morning to secure the Old City of Jerusalem, which has seen heightened tensions in light of Arab violence on the Temple Mount.