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Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

07/03/2014 09:16:34 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

I  lost myself in a sci-fi thriller on the long flight to Israel. It wasn’t a great movie but the binary plot, where the good guys and the bad guys were as easy to identify as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, was a welcome relief from the often morally grey terrain of the Israeli life I was about to enter. On my mind were the recent decision by the Presbyterian Church USA to divest from companies that it sees as participating in the “occupation” as well as the three Israeli teens who had gone missing two weeks earlier and were believed to be kidnap victims of Hamas; few thought they were still alive and that fear was borne out when their bodies were found buried in a field on the 18th day since their disappearance.

3 Teens killedIt’s hard to describe the feeling that hangs in the air, heavy and suffocating as if the dry heat of Jerusalem was saturated with a humidity of hurt, thick with fear and foreboding of the violence one knows is yet to come. It didn’t take long for the tragedy of the three murdered teens to beget another tragedy: the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian boy. The day after his violent death was in the news I walked to the Old City, through the Jaffa Gate and to the Kotel to pray. The usually bustling souk was quiet with many Palestinian shops closed in protest, but the Western Wall was its usual crowded, chaotic scene of prayer minyans and tourists from around the world.

Kotel“What am I doing here?” I wondered as I made my way to the Kotel. Once there I leaned my forehead against the ancient stone repository of over 2,500 years of longing, prayer and an ocean of tears. I began with Shacharit, the morning service which I know by heart: “My God the soul you have given me is pure…You renew creation daily, how wondrous are your works…May a new light shine on Zion”…etc. When I got to the Shema, I shifted into a more meditative mode, and opened my being to everything around and within me: the cacophony of the various minyanim, the chatter of tourists talking, the Chinese prayers of the man next to me, the heat of the late morning sun bearing down on my head, the pain of the Israeli and Palestinian families whose sons were so recently and senselessly murdered, those in need of healing in the congregation, the great gash in the heart of The Heart of Hearts, The Ground of All Being, and for myself that I would not fall into despair, that I would not give up, that the promise of the future would remain my lodestar of life, that someday God’s oneness would be realized in our reality and in our day. Time stood still and the “I” of my individual existence dissolved into a great, white light…

My reverie did not last long but it was enough to soothe my aching soul and to lift me from my despair. Where there is prayer there is hope, and where there is hope there is always the possibility of a better tomorrow.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.


Tue, January 26 2021 13 Sh'vat 5781