The semi-annual operation to clear out thousands of notes placed by visitors between the crevices of the Western Wall stones took place on Sunday in advance of the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday which begins this Friday evening.
More than 20,000 notes from 100 countries were sent from abroad to the Western Wall over the past half year.
The removal of the notes is carried out every half-year in accordance with halakhic instructions and using gloves and disposable wooden tools, with the goal of making space for new notes from tourists and visitors expected to arrive in Jerusalem in the coming months.
The notes are collected in bags and buried together with worn sacred books in a place specifically designated for this purpose, “Geniza”. The rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, accompanied the removal personally and recited a prayer for the unity of the Jewish people and for the thousands of visitors who placed their prayers between the stones.
“May this year and its curses end and may the new year and its blessings begin – grant peace to the land, peace and unity is our common request,” said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.
“We are confident that from this place, where the Divine Presence has never moved, the Blessed be He hears the prayers of all of us from the land and from the diaspora, and the requests that arrive here will ascend on high and bring with them to the coming year – a year of unity, joy, and hope.”
When Did the Custom Begin?
The custom of placing notes in the cracks between the mammoth stones of the Western Wall has been documented for about three hundred years, as far back as the writings of the Or HaChaim HaKadosh.
Prayer notes are placed throughout the length of the Western Wall, and they can also be found among the layers that were exposed in the Western Wall Tunnels.
Thousands of notes are sent to the Western Wall throughout the year.
An average of about 3,000 notes are sent every month via the Western Wall Heritage Foundation’s website. This is in addition to hundreds of thousands of notes that are placed personally by visitors.
In the past year, tens of thousands of notes were sent via the website alone, including from countries such as the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, England, Germany, Ukraine, India, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Spain, and more.