A New, Urgent Prayer for the State of Israel

This new version of the prayer for Israel urges you to look outward rather than upward, and affect reality with your own two hands.

A Jewish woman wears a prayer shawl as she prays at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city, Monday, Nov. 4, 2013.
A Jewish woman wears a prayer shawl as she prays at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city, Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. AP

I confess that I envy people who pray. I envy people who feel that, with their prayers, they are doing something to affect a situation that seems hopeless.

While the rest of us bite our nails and pace outside the emergency room, waiting for news of a loved one undergoing major surgery, I am jealous of those who can recite psalms, secure in the knowledge that this will have a bearing on the outcome.

A wonderful American gospel song goes, “I just telephone upstairs when I’m troubled.” It describes the big boss upstairs as always being available, the line never busy when we call.

It’s time to make that call. We Israelis, together with all who wish us well, are in the emergency room right now. Faith that what you do effects change for the better is an essential ingredient in hope, the most precious commodity we have. In Israel today, we are overwhelmed by an onslaught of bad news and hope is in short supply.

Terrorism, and the measures we resort to in order to combat it, have taken center stage. The future looks bleak, an unending more-of-the-same. The government deals in Band-Aid remedies, not the long term. Zealotry, with all its attendant evils, is becoming more and more fashionable. The world is growing tired of what it sees as Israel’s obstinate refusal to come to terms with the restive Palestinian population under occupation.

The general and polite requests in the prayer for the State of Israel that is traditionally recited in synagogues at the conclusion of services demands far too much of an omnipotent God and too little of his servants. There is an urgent need for a new text that will have meaning for all of us, especially those who do not believe in prayer.

I’m a practical, down-to-earth sort of person, so I rewrote the prayer for Israel to express this urgent need for hope. This prayer urges you to look outward rather than upward, and affect reality with your own two hands. I commend the Reform movement for allowing a non-rabbi – and a woman at that – to try out this new text last month on its largest audience, the URJ Biennial.

As thousands of men and women lent their voices to it, it was truly a moment of tikva.

 

Prayer for the State of Israel

אלי

In this sacred moment, give us hope for Israel and her future.

Renew our wonder at the miracle of the Jewish State.

In the name of the pioneers who made the deserts 
bloom – give us the tools to cultivate a diversity of Jewish expression in Israel.

In the name of our fallen soldiers – give us courage to 
stand up to the words and ways of zealots. Those in our own midst and those among our neighbors.

In the name of Israeli inventors who have amazed the world with their innovations – help us apply the same ingenuity to finding a path to peace.

In the name of all these women and men – grant us the strength to conquer doubt and despair in Israel.

Replacing doubt with action.

Replacing despair with hope.

And let us say:

Amen.

The writer is chief executive of the Israel Religious Action Center.