A survival guide to the Priestly blessing at the Kotel on Pesach and Sukkot!
On Pesach and Sukkot, thousands of people flood to the Western Wall, the Kotel to take part (if they are Cohanim – priests), or to experience being together with fellow Jews from all over the world, and receive the priestly blessings. Usually, Israel’s chief Rabbis also attend this special event.
While this happens every day here in Israel during the morning (shacharit) and mussaf prayers, on Pesach and Sukkot the first day of the intermediate days (Chol Hamoed) is a day when everyone is invited to join a huge gathering of people for the priestly blessing, at the Kotel.
Every year people ask how best to do this, so I have compiled this blog post to put all the advice and reactions together in one place! Feel free to add your advice in the comments below, and share with your friends!
When? This year, Sukkot 2019, the main blessings will be on a date soon to be confirmed. You can check updates on the Kotel website. Shacharit is usually at 8:45am with the Shacharit blessing at approximately 9:30am. Mussaf is at 10am and the Mussaf blessing is at 10:15am.
If you have small children, most people tend to not recommend going..but if you do, it is suggested that you stay in a more neutral area for example somewhere above the kotel where you can watch from a distance. Tour guide, Debra Nussbaum Stepan suggested that the overlook at Colel Chabad is a good place to see everything.
Wear really comfortable shoes as you will have to do a lot of walking and there are not many places to sit and rest. Bring lots of water with you. “Just expect thousands and thousands of people, so if you’re OK with that- wonderful and enjoy. If you don’t like crowds it’s just not worth it” says Aviva.
Is the Mechitza/area for women made bigger?
They do extend the mechitza but not that much. It has been suggested that you can definitely stand as a family together in the back as there are loud speakers that are VERY loud, so you will hear everything!
Is it enjoyable?
It is very very very packed and crowded but can be a great and wonderful experience. May people who enjoyed a successful visit saif it was really inspiring and an amazing experience.
Esther says, “I’ve done it and i think its amazing, but it isn’t easy. its crowded so bring along lots of patience and snacks”
Amy says, “We went with our family over Sukkot. My husband went down to the kotel and me and the kids 11,9 & 8) stayed up top overlooking the kotel (near the Aish building). We got there early so got a great spot and a great birds eye view of the whole thing. We made a meeting spot afterwards and waited there patiently for my husband to meet us. Bring snacks, and patience!”
Alisa says, “Don’t go to the front!!! Standing in the back so you can get out safely and not being stuck for a long time… you can hear the same if your standing in front or in back!!”
Ilana says, “Pay a few shekels to view from Aish balcony. best view, comfortable and no pushing and shoving.”
What is the best time to get there?
“We have been for Sukkot and Pesach. We got there at 830 last time and got great spots. It was actually really cool. At 830 it was relatively empty. Five minutes later I turned around and it was almost entirely packed with people.” Says, Shaina.
Where should I park?
If you are early enough…and we recommend that you do go early, you can park at Mamilla and walk over to the Kotel.
Can i bring a stroller?
Try to avoid bringing a stroller. Many do, and it adds to the chaos and is just very difficult to maneuver through the big crowds.
What is the experience like for the actual Kohanim?
The space where the Cohanim are is extremely crowded. It can be difficult for the Cohanim to get to the right place and duchan properly. The important thing is to try and get there early.
Is there a way to watch it without going there?
Yes. You can watch the Kotel cameras live here!
Photo Credit: Kotel Website