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April 8, 2009
Blessing of the Sun
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Devout Jews around the world on Wednesday observed a ritual performed only once every 28 years, saying their morning prayers under the open sky in a ceremony called the "blessing of the sun." Tens of thousands of worshippers stood next to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's walled Old City, the holiest site where Jews can pray. Hundreds headed to the ancient desert fortress of Masada, while others prayed on the roof of a Tel Aviv high-rise and congregated on road sides. The prayer came on the eve of the weeklong Passover festival, in which Jews commemorate the exodus from slavery in Egypt. The timing was coincidental, but added to the joyous feeling felt by many worshippers. (14 images)

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Ultra Orthodox Jewish men wrapped in prayer shawls participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer at historic site of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea, in Masada, Israel, Wednesday, April 8. Devout Jews around the world on Wednesday observed a ritual performed only once every 28 years, saying their morning prayers under the open sky in the "blessing of the sun." Hundreds headed to the ancient desert fortress of Masada, to perform the special blessing called the Birkat Hachamah in Hebrew. AP / Sebastian Scheiner


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Members of Hungary's Orthodox Jewish community pray during the rare "Blessing of the Sun" (Birkat Hachama) ceremony in Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, April 8. A special Jewish blessing is recited in appreciation of the Sun only once every 28 years, at the vernal equinox. Jewish tradition says that when the sun completes this cycle, it has returned to its position when the God created it. According to Judaism, the Sun has a 28-year solar cycle and the "Blessing of the Sun" marks the beginning of this cycle. AP / Bela Szandelszky



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Religious Jews recite prayers during the Birkat Hachama "Blessing of the Sun" ritual as the sun rises over the horizon on April 8, in the Galilee town of Tiberias in northern Israel. The ritual is performed only once every 28 years as the sun returns to its starting point at the moment the universe was created, according to Jewish tradition and the biblical account of creation. The Book of Genesis states that God created the world in seven days, and on the fourth day he put the sun into orbit. Getty Images / David Silverman



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Religious Jews recite prayers during the Birkat Hachama "Blessing of the Sun" ritual as the sun rises over the horizon on April 8, in the Galilee town of Tiberias in northern Israel. Getty Images / David Silverman



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Religious Jews cover themselves and their sons to receive the priestly blessing during the Birkat Hachama "Blessing of the Sun" ritual as the sun rises over the Sea of Galilee on April 8, in Tiberias in northern Israel. Getty Images / David Silverman



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Ultra Orthodox Jewish men wrapped in prayer shawls participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer at historic site of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea, in Masada, Israel, Wednesday, April 8. Devout Jews around the world on Wednesday observed a ritual performed only once every 28 years, saying their morning prayers under the open sky in the "blessing of the sun." Hundreds headed to the ancient desert fortress of Masada, to perform the special blessing called the Birkat Hachamah in Hebrew. AP / Sebastian Scheiner



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Ultra Orthodox Jewish men wrapped in prayer shawls participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 8. AP / Dan Balilty



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Jewish worshippers wrapped in prayer shawls, participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer at sunrise on the Eitam Hilltop near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrata, Wednesday, April 8. AP / Kevin Frayer



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Back-dropped by the Dome of the Rock Mosque, in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, also known to Jews as the Temple Mount, Ultra Orthodox Jewish men participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 8. AP / Dan Balilty



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Ultra Orthodox Jewish men gather in a bus stop as they participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 8. Devout Jews around the world on Wednesday observed a ritual performed only once every 28 years, saying their morning prayers under the open sky in the "blessing of the sun", called the Birkat Hachamah in Hebrew. AP / Oded Balilty



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Members of Hungary's Orthodox Jewish community pray during the rare "Blessing of the Sun" (Birkat Hachama) ceremony in Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, April 8. A special Jewish blessing is recited in appreciation of the Sun only once every 28 years, at the vernal equinox. Jewish tradition says that when the sun completes this cycle, it has returned to its position when the God created it. According to Judaism, the Sun has a 28-year solar cycle and the "Blessing of the Sun" marks the beginning of this cycle. AP / Bela Szandelszky



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Ultra Orthodox Jewish men wrapped in prayer shawls participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer at historic site of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea, in Masada, Israel, Wednesday, April 8. AP / Sebastian Scheiner



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Jewish worshippers wrapped in prayer shawls participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 8. Devout Jews around the world on Wednesday observed a ritual performed only once every 28 years, saying their morning prayers under the open sky in the "blessing of the sun", called the Birkat Hachamah in Hebrew. AP / Muhammed Muheisen



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Ultra Orthodox Jewish men participate in the special "Blessing of the Sun" prayer in Jerusalem's Old City, Wednesday, April 8. Devout Jews around the world on Wednesday observed a ritual performed only once every 28 years, saying their morning prayers under the open sky in the "blessing of the sun." Tens of thousands of worshippers stood next to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's walled Old City to perform the special blessing called the Birkat Hachamah in Hebrew. AP / Bernat Armangue



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