The welcoming of swifts back to the Western Wall has become a ceremony that is held in Jerusalem every springtime.
The swifts, who have spent the winter in Africa "know there are 88 nesting places that were preserved," said Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Naomi Tsur. "And when the Western Wall was repaired we were very careful not to cement in and fill in the nesting places."
The return of these birds to Jerusalem, a place of pilgrimage for Judaism, Islam and Christianity, has been going on for thousands of years.
"We feel it is symbolic of heavenly Jerusalem meeting with earthly Jerusalem and we feel that these birds are no less pilgrims than the many Jews, Christians and Muslims who see Jerusalem as the most important spiritual destination in the world," said Tsur at this year's ceremony on March 12.
Swifts symbols of peace
Swifts come not just to the western Wall but to mosques and churches: there has been a movement to use the swifts as symbols to link people in the Midde East.
"Swifts nest in holy places all over the world (they have just recently been acknowledged and welcomed in China," Tsur said. "It could be that one aspect of greening for religious institutions is a willingness to preserve the nesting places of the swifts.
Abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit , the Rt Rev Francis Stitler, said he believed the swifts could bring together people from all cultures all nations all faiths: "it’s something that everyone is attracted to."
Amnon Han of Friends of Swifts in Jerusalem, was one of the key people behind the event and the protection of swifts in the city. He recently told a US news channel how he was once gliding with a paraglider and he encountered a flock of swifts in the sky.
"I flew with them up to the clouds at an altitude of two thousand meters. It was a very exciting experience. I saw them so close and I was amazed by their size, their beauty. I was so excited and from that moment the love story began and all my activities with the Swifts."
* spends most of its life on the wing. * feeds on flying insects, which it hunts in the air. * drinks while flying. * sleeps on the wing. * mates on the wing at the beginning of the breeding season. * spends most of the time living in South Africa. * at the beginning of spring starts migrating north to its breeding sites. * migrates back to Africa from Israel in June, immediately after its nestlings have fledged. * weighs only around 40 grams. * has lived in cities as soon as people started building them, favouring barns and houses and holy sites such as churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.