Twice a year, during the Pesach and Sukkot holidays, tens of thousands of Jews gather in the Old City of Jerusalem for the mass Birkat Kohanim (“Priestly Blessing”) ceremony at the Kotel.
This year, however, the radical feminist group “Women of the Wall”, planned to crash the ceremony with a “Birkat Kohanot” ritual alongside the traditional event.
In Judaism, Kohanim, the descendants of the priestly caste who maintained the Temple in Jerusalem, perform a ritual blessing of the congregation each day during morning prayers. The daughters of Kohanim do not perform the ritual blessing.
The planned Women of the Wall event sparked anger among organizers of the Birkat Kohanim ceremony, the Rabbi of the Kotel Shmuel Rabinovitch, and the religious community at large.
A mass prayer rally of Orthodox women was planned for Sunday to protest the Women of the Wall event.
On Thursday, however, Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit nixed the alternative ceremony, ruling that no tradition for Birkat Kohanot exists, and is thus counter to the traditions of the venue.
The Attorney General’s office said that Mandelblit earlier had held “a hearing on the issue, with representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Religious Ministry, the Rabbi of the Kotel, and officials from the Justice Ministry”.
“During the meeting the Rabbi of the Kotel and the Religious Ministry presented their positions, arguing that the ‘Birkat Kohanot’ ceremony was not in keeping with the traditions established at the Kotel.”
The Attorney General’s ruling noted that ‘Birkat Kohanot’ was not a recognized Jewish tradition, and that such an event had never been held at the Kotel in the past.