Tens of thousands of Jews visited the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem on Monday night, gathering to ask for forgiveness and mercy in Selichot prayers before the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast despite – or in spite of – the tense security situation in the capital.
As many as 100,000 people may have visited the Kotel throughout the night for the culmination of the penitentiary prayers, which ends some 40 days of prayer for Sephardic Jews and roughly two weeks for Ashkenazic Jews.
The prayer drew a variety of people – men and women, children and the elderly, and observant and non-observant Jews.
Both Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef attended the service, as well as Kotel Rabbi Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, attended the services.
Tuesday morning, Erev Yom Kippur, marks the end of the Ten Days of Repentance, in which Jews reflect on their conduct throughout the year and make amends, increase prayer, and give more to charity and to their communities.
The annual tradition to end Selichot at the Kotel began more than 20 years ago due to the initiative of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the late spiritual leader of the Shas party and an influential rabbi in both Israel and the Diaspora.