Who would have ever thought that, according to the report in the Jerusalem Post (November 14, 2010), clergy from Judaism, Islam and Christianity would gather together and in one place at the same time pray together for rain to descend upon the land?
That is exactly what happened. Apparently Israel is experiencing a dry spell. The rainy season normally begins by the middle of October. Rain and water in general is always a valuable resource in the Middle East and plays a critical although oftentimes a behind the scenes role in commerce and the politics of the region.
But this time in what appears to be a mysterious phenomenon that a Rabbi, Imam and Christian Greek Orthodox priest joined together at a spring called Eiyn Heniya in the Valley of the Ghosts that is between Jerusalem and the Bethlehem Hills for a session of prayer to God to send the rain upon the land.
According to the article Orthodox Rabbi Menachem Froman spoke about how both Islam and Judaism have beliefs that God will send rain if the people are good. So this gesture of interreligious unity was a small but important way of appealing to God to cause the rain to replenish the earth. The Rev. Issa Elias Musleh also expressed the sentiment that he was there to beseech God for mercy upon humankind and bring the rains forth. The Mufti of Bethlehem, Sheikh Abdel Najib, also expressed hopes for peace between the religions and that by praying together reaffirmed Islam’s intention to bring peace to the region and choose peace over war.
In Judaism from the end of the harvest festival of Sukkot until the late spring we pray for rain three times a day. In the prayer we ask God to “meshev ha ruach umorid hagashem –Cause the wind to blow and make the rain descend.” In the Talmud it is written, the day the rain falls is as significant as the day heaven and earth were created.” (Taanit 8b) Rabbinic legislation in times of drought called for a communal fast to appeal to God to bring down the rain. Our ancestors as well as our contemporaries in Israel take the prayers for rain seriously. By the year 2020, population estimates approximate that there will be 8.4 million people living in Israel. The rain is, therefore, even more critical to sustain such a growing population.
But I really want to focus on this small moment of hope that three clergy could agree to meet together in front of the media and suspend the rivalries and antagonisms that afflict this holy and sacred land. The fact that they transcended the bitterness and cynicism and, instead, focused on a common problem shows that beyond the rhetoric we read about in the media that there are forces who are communicating and searching for ways to work together. This is one of those moments that should hold out a little bit of hope for us that peace is within the grasp of the parties in this conflict.
We should watch and learn from their example. I wish more of our clergy in my community would join together in actions of praying together to demonstrate how religions can cooperate with each other and set an example to their followers for how we here in America can find common ground on issues that impact us all.