Tens of thousands of Jews congregated at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday to pray for the safety of Israeli soldiers and the secure release of Israelis held captive in the Gaza Strip.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall Plaza, led the assembly in reciting Psalms, setting a spiritual tone for the event.

Among the attendees were families of hostages in Gaza, including Yigal Sarusi, who passionately led a prayer for the release of captives, including his 27-year-old son Almog.

“Let us think together about the hostages, about our soldiers, and about the unity of the State of Israel to open the gates of heaven,” Sarusi implored.

The event was livestreamed online, with parallel gatherings of Jews around the world participating in their respective locations. In Tel Aviv, the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism organized a smaller gathering in Hostages Square. Yarden Gonen, whose sibling Romi Gonen is a hostage in Gaza, was in attendance.

The emotional climax of the gathering came during the recitation of the “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear, O Israel”) prayer at exactly 5:30 p.m. Israel time. It was the largest mass recitation of this prayer ever recorded.

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