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Jews around the world have 'blessing of sun'

DEVOUT Jews around the world yesterday 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."

In Israel, 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.

"God created the world in seven days," said Yona Vogel, one of the estimated 50,000 who attended the Western Wall prayers. "On the fourth day he put the sun into orbit and every 28 years it returns to the original place that it stood when God created the world."

The special blessing ?? called "the Birkat Hachamah" in Hebrew ?? was marked in many time zones, starting with members of the small Jewish community in New Zealand.

In hundreds of places, from Israel and Italy to New Zealand and Kyrgyzstan, observant Jews rose before dawn for prayers and dancing.

The prayer came on the eve of the week-long Passover festival, in which Jews commemorate the exodus from slavery in Egypt.

In New York City, a rabbi was to lead a morning gathering near the United Nations. Another group was to pray on the deck of a 17th-story penthouse near ground zero, the site of the demolished World Trade Center.

A Birkat Hachamah ceremony in 1981 was held on the 107th-story observation deck of the building's South Tower, and the rabbi was dedicating yesterday's blessing to the memory of those who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Live Webcasts were scheduled from seven locations as the sun moved across the Earth, starting at 8am in Christchurch, New Zealand, followed by events in Brisbane, Australia; Jerusalem; London; New York; Colorado Springs; and Honolulu.


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