He stood at one of the world’s holiest sites and prayed for those who've contracted COVID-19. Then Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of Jerusalem's Western Wall, watched as thousands of written prayers crammed into the crevices of stone were removed. This happens twice a year before Passover and Rosh Hashana, per the Jerusalem Post. The prayers left by pilgrims from around the world are buried on the Mount of Olives without being read. But there was an alteration Tuesday. After the notes were removed, the entire wall, regularly touched and kissed, was sanitized by workers wearing hazmat suits and gas masks, reports CBS News.
"We collect prayers from around the world at the remnant of our destroyed temple, prayers to the creator of the universe that he should send us a complete healing and good health and redeem us from this difficult virus that has attacked the world," said Rabinowitz. One person who kissed the wall (aka "God's mailbox"), part of the Second Temple of Jerusalem destroyed in AD70, was then removed by police, per Reuters. As of Tuesday, all public prayer gatherings are banned in Israel, which counts 5,591 coronavirus cases and 21 deaths as of Wednesday morning, per Haaretz. Worshippers are asked to pray alone, though exceptions are made for minyans (prayer groups of 10 men), so long as members keep at least 6 feet apart. (Read more Jerusalem stories.)