A positive story from Israel

Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze religious leaders seek divine intervention to heal the sick and end the pandemic.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

The leaders of the four leading religions in Israel–Judaism, Islam, Christianity and the Druze faith–convened for an unprecedented interfaith prayer in Jerusalem Wednesday, beseeching God to end the corona epidemic.

Slated to be broadcast worldwide over the internet, the initiative was a collaboration of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior, with the World Council of Religious Leaders and numerous Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.

With strict health restrictions in effect in Israel, the leaders stood two meters apart with several of them wearing surgical masks along with their traditional robes of office.

The joint prayer was composed by Israel’s two chief rabbis and  translated in a united form acceptable to the spiritual leaders of all faiths in Israel, the organizers said.

“Lord of all generations … We come before you with a bowed head, and with bent stature, and plead,” the prayer read. “Hundreds of thousands died, millions have fallen sick. Save, we beseech thee, O Lord. We entreat thee, O Lord, send prosperity! Send complete recovery to the sick, avert the plague from Your world.”

“Please God, You who have nourished us in famine and provided us with plenty, You have removed us from pestilence, and freed us from severe and long-lasting disease –help us.”

Following the prayer, the leaders each offered their personal thoughts.

“Jerusalem is a house of prayer for all the people and now all the peoples all over the world are suffering from this coronavirus” said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, head of the Catholic Church in Israel. “It’s important that here in Jerusalem we pray for the people and [come] together.”

The event marked the first time that the different religious leaders had joined together to offer a communal prayer, and organizers had hoped to broadcast the event live over the internet. However, technical problems repeatedly interrupted the live stream.

The leaders present at the event were Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Latin Patriarch Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, Druze Spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, Imam Sheikh Gamal el Ubra, and Imam Sheikh Agel Al-Atrash.

One of the organizers, Rabbi David Rosen of Jerusalem, who moderated the event, is known for his longstanding commitments to interfaith dialogue. He also serves as an advisor to Israel’s chief rabbis on interreligious affairs.

“In these turbulent times, we continue to hear growing voices against entire communities,” Rosen said in a statement before the event. “This new dire reality has affected all humanity, regardless of religion, gender and race. Out of true faith in solidarity, we now call on all citizens of the world to join forces and carry a joint prayer to health and unity.”

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