Thousands of Israelis streamed to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday, to “cry out, plead, and invoke heavenly mercy upon all of Israel” and especially to pray for the return of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.
A coalition of Israel’s Ashkenazi and Sephardic Chief rabbis, many other prominent rabbis, religious organizations and movements, and families of the hostages, had called for the people of Israel to pray with them for God’s mercy on the hostages and the Israeli soldiers currently fighting in the Gaza Strip.
“We pray for God’s mercy on Klal Yisrael, for the healing of the wounded bodies and souls, for the success of the IDF soldiers and the security forces, for the safe return of the hostages,” their statement read.
They also called on rabbis across the nation to hold a special prayer session in their yeshivas.
Some 136 hostages are estimated to still be held captive inside the Gaza Strip by Hamas terrorists who kidnapped them after the surprise invasion and murderous attack on Oct. 7.
The large plaza in front of the Wall was almost entirely filled with thousands of attendees, some coming from far away.
“I’m 69 so I don’t serve in the army but the call to this prayer is my draft order,” Emmanuel Ohaiun, who arrived from Shlomi, near the northern border with Lebanon, told the Times of Israel.
“There is the war on the ground, and there is holy warfare that I came to fight,” he added.
The service was heavy on the theme of repentance for one’s sins, as it included selichot, special prayers asking for God’s forgiveness, as well as repeated Shofar horn blasts, both of which are typically performed during the time leading up to Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of repentance.
The service was opened by Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Places.
“We are imploring you, Master of the Universe,” Rabinovitch intoned at the outset.
“Hear us, merciful and compassionate God… Look upon us standing here in unity,” he continued.
“There are no [different] tribes or camps here, we learned our lesson. We are standing before you as one man, with a united heart, and we have no one to lean on other than you, Master of the Universe.”
Later in the evening, another event was held in Tel Aviv’s “Hostages Square,” with singers Idan Raichel and Aharon Razel, as well as Rabbis Shmuel Eliyahu and Itamar Eldar participating.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.