Tel Aviv [Israel], October 3 (ANI/TPS): Thousands of Jews converged on the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday for Sukkot holiday prayers, including the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing).
Meanwhile, Israeli Police arrested three Palestinians who harassed Jews visiting the Temple Mount. During the event, hundreds of kohanim, descendants of Aaron the Priest, give a traditional benediction.
Due to the high demand, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the holy site, is this year holding the Birkat Kohanim service twice. The second will be held on Wednesday.
According to the foundation, 50,000 people attended Monday's event.
Among those participating on Monday were Israeli Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites Shmuel Rabinowitz and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.
The Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall dates back to 1931 and is traditionally held during the intermediary days of Passover and Sukkot, and on Shavuot.
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is the only remnant of a retaining wall encircling the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great and is the holiest site where Jews can freely pray. The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were built, is the overall holiest site in Judaism.
Police said they arrested three Palestinians who harassed Jews visiting the Temple Mount.
The police said a"handful" of Palestinians had positioned themselves to chant inciting nationalistic slogans at Jews visiting the hilltop esplanade. A police spokesperson said the crowd was pushed back and three individuals were detained for questioning.
Rabbis are increasingly divided over Jews ascending to the Temple Mount. For centuries, the widespread rabbinic consensus was that the laws of ritual purity still apply to the site. But in recent years, a growing number of rabbis have argued that ritual purity laws don't apply to all sections of the Temple Mount and encourage visits to permitted areas to maintain Jewish connections to the Mount.
The delicate status quo governing the Temple Mount goes back to 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War. Fearing a religious war, then-defense minister Moshe Dayan agreed to let the Islamic Waqf, a Muslim trusteeship, continue managing the holy site's day-to-day affairs, while Israel would maintain overall sovereignty and be responsible for security.
According to the status quo, Jews and non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not pray there. (ANI/TPS)