Jewish Agency for Israel chair Isaac Herzog led 100 new olim (“new immigrants“) from 45 countries to selichot services — special prayers said by Jews worldwide during the days before and between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — at the excavated tunnels under the Western Wall over the weekend.
The new immigrants had all made aliyah to Israel with the assistance of the Jewish Agency just two months earlier, as they begin their lives in Israel bringing in the Jewish new year, 5780.
For most of them, the visit marked their first time witnessing selichot at the Western Wall, and it will be the first Yom Kippur as official residents of Israel.
They were led on a tour of the tunnels by Herzog, who is the grandson of Israel’s first chief rabbi, Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog.
Herzog provided the participants with historical background about the Western Wall, which was liberated by the Israel Defense Forces during the Six-Day War.
And he also told them about his father, Chaim Herzog, the sixth president of the State of Israel and Jerusalem’s first mayor, who took over responsibility for the Western Wall area after the war.
At the tour’s conclusion, Herzog stated: “It’s exciting for me that at the start of the new year and as Yom Kippur approaches, among a sea of people praying and reciting selichot, a group of young immigrants has arrived at the Western Wall from around the world, and experienced the power of this place and this event for the first time. The Western Wall is the beating heart of our people. It belongs to all of us; its stones are ‘the heart of man,’ as the poem says. ”