Unseasonably dry weather in the Holy Land region, with no predictions of rain in the near future, has led a group of about 60 local Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, plus one Christian, to join in praying for rain.
Rabbi Yehuda Stolov of the Interfaith Encounter Association, which helped organize the gathering, said that the prayers on Nov. 11 were not only a plea to God for much-needed rain but also showed the commonality that the residents of the region shared.
The Christian involved was a Roman Catholic priest from Bethlehem.
“They are joint needs. They [the people] need the same things, and they ask for them from the same God,” Stolov told ENInews.
The prayers were said at a natural spring in a valley between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which lie close to one another, and near the village of Wallajah, whose land is under threat during the expansion of an Israeli-built separation barrier, which juts into Palestinian-held land.
The joint prayer occurred after a group of rabbis had visited the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar, where they met Bethlehem governor Abd Al Fattah Hamayel several weeks ago, after Israeli settler were accused of vandalizing a village mosque.
“It [the joint prayer session] was a very emotional experience,” said Rabbi Elchanan Nir, coordinator of the Abraham’s Tent group, which brings together rabbis and Muslim sheiks for monthly meetings.
Nir said it was the first time such a joint prayer for rain had been held in the Holy Land with rabbis and sheiks, and added, “It was a very strong prayer. We saw them pray, and they saw us pray. I hope it will bring rain, and that it will bring unity.”
Stolov commented that the presence of media representatives prevented a true meeting between the worshippers, which was one goal of the event, but they were able to witness each others’ prayer, “which is something to be valued.”
A speech by Bethlehem governor Al Fattah began the proceedings. Then, a Jewish prayer for rain was recited, after which the sheiks recited their regular afternoon Islamic prayers, plus a prayer for rain.
“The purpose of this joint prayer gathering was to break the boundaries between Jews and Muslims,” Ibrahim Embawi, the Muslim coordinator for Abraham’s Tent, told ENInews. “We both inhabit the same land, and need the same water. We all pray to the same God. If it does not rain, we both will be in trouble.”