The ancient stones of Jerusalem’s Western Wall have been gently denuded of hundreds of thousands of prayer notes that are punched each day into every crack and crevice by visitors to the world’s holiest Jewish site, hoping that their wishes will be picked up by God.
The Western Wall is a remnant of the courtyard of the Second Temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD and stands beneath a religious plaza also used by Muslim worshippers called Temple Mount.
The Wall’s chief Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and his army of helpers gently dislodged the multicoloured papers before wrapping them – still unread – to be buried on the Mount of Olives, another holy site. The cleanup operation to allow room for new messages takes place twice a year ahead of Rosh Hashanah – or Jewish New Year – and Passover.
Although the notes have never been counted, they generally fill around 200 shopping bags a year.
Many of the wishes are faxed or emailed by people from around the world, whilst hundreds of thousands of others send letters addressed simply to “God in Jerusalem”.