General Information

Sep 16, 2020

Preparing the Western Wall for the High Holy Days

“May the New Year and its blessings begin”: This is how the removal of prayer notes from the between the Western Wall stones looks on Erev Rosh Hashana 5781.
The holidays of Tishrei will be celebrated amid the coronavirus pandemic in accordance with Health Ministry regulations, but great efforts will be made not to veer away from the site’s customs, albeit with a symbolic and limited number of people.

As is traditional prior to Rosh Hashana, this morning (Wednesday), prayer notes placed between the stones of the Wall were removed, in the shadow of the coronavirus and the subsequent restrictions. The stones of the Wall were also sanitized in order to safeguard the health of visitors to the Western Wall.

Prior to Rosh Hashana 5781, this year as well, the custom continued of removing the many prayer notes placed by visitors over the past summer months between the stones of the Wall. Notes were also sent from around the world in various ways. The notes were removed using gloves and disposable wooden tools by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation staff. They were then collected in bags that will be buried along with sacred books for “geniza” on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Every year, over 40,000 notes are sent digitally via the Western Wall website. Since the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel, over 15,000 prayer notes have been sent from around the world, about 20% more than the same period last year.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, who accompanied the removal and sanitization process in person, offered a prayer in honor of the upcoming New Year: “We stand today on the eve of the New Year and pray to the Creator of the Universe that ‘the old year and its curses cease and the New Year and its blessings begin.’ We find great strength and comfort at the Western Wall during times like these, facing the sacred stones that survived hardships and have empowered us with faith that better days are ahead. We pray that He will remove from us the evil decree and we will merit coming to Jerusalem with joy, en masse, and renewing our days as of old.”