It has become unfortunately routine in recent years: When the weather forecasters have nothing good to say about the prospects for rain, the rabbis, imams and priests spring into action, conducting special interfaith prayers for the wet stuff.
Now, it has happened again: Chief rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar have decreed special days of fasting and prayer in response to the drought. The first of the fasts was yesterday, and the second will be on Monday.
The rabbis also wrote a special prayer for rain and urged worshipers to insert it into the daily prayer service on every day when the Torah is read (Monday, Thursday and Saturday ).
Yesterday, the chief rabbis went to Honi Hame'agel Park in the Galilee to pray for rain, perhaps hoping that Honi - who, according to the Talmud, successfully prayed for rain during a drought more than 2,000 years ago - would speed their prayers heavenward.
This coming Monday, which they deemed a "day of prayer and crying out [to God]," Metzger and Amar are urging all Jews, both in Israel and abroad, to recite special prayers in addition to fasting. They themselves will lead one such service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Monday afternoon.
"The summer is over, but we still haven't been saved by a blessed rainfall," the rabbis began the letter they sent this week to municipal and neighborhood rabbis both in Israel and abroad. "The water situation in the Land of Israel is one of great need and distress, especially because this is not the first year in which there has been a drought and the land has dried up, due to our multitude of sins. This requires us to seek out the reason. Our obligation in this situation is to examine and scrutinize our actions, to draw nearer to God with all our hearts and to pour out our supplication to him with a broken and downcast heart."
Two weeks ago, Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders conducted a joint prayer for rain in the Muslim village of Wallaja. The drought has also brought a rare moment of unity among the various Orthodox Jewish sects - all of whom issued a joint call to their followers to add "Ve'anenu," a special prayer for rain and for God's mercy in general, to the Amida, the central prayer of the thrice-daily service.
There has been no rain at all this month, and most forecasters expect this dearth to continue through at least the beginning of December, and possibly even all of it. The drought covers the entire eastern Mediterranean region. Western Europe, in contrast, is suffering a plethora of precipitation.
Asaf Shtull-Trauring contributed to this report
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