(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Heavy rains that fell across the country on Monday have not dampened Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel’s enthusiasm for a mass prayer for rain at the Western Wall this Thursday.
Ariel called for the prayer rally with a Facebook post on Friday, in response to the lack of rain the country has been experiencing this, and for the past few, winters.
A statement from Ariel’s office said that alongside preparations for another drought year, the minister was organizing the prayer rally in order to take all possible measures to provide for Israel’s water needs.
Ariel called on the public at large to attend, adding as an enticement that various sites in and around the Old City of Jerusalem will offer discounted entry on the day of the rally.
The event – which will be conducted in the presence of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau – coincides with Asara Betevet, the fast of the 10th of Tevet, marking the day when Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem over 2,500 years ago.
Ariel noted that the country has seen less rain this year than on average and it appears the arid conditions, which come against the background of the last four years of drought, will continue.
“I call on the public to participate in this event on the 10th of Tevet... and to bring umbrellas, because together we will tear open the gates of Heaven,” the minister said.
Responding to charges that the event is a form of state-sponsored prayer, Ariel said no one was being forced to attend and anyone who doesn’t believe in the efficacy of prayer to bring rain was free to believe what they want.
“I am someone who doesn’t rely on miracles and does everything I know as agriculture minister, together with the energy minister and finance minister, to find a solution to the water [crisis],” he told Ynet.
Nonetheless, citing the Talmud and the Bible, Ariel said Jewish tradition does include the practice of praying for rain and accounts of figures who did so and succeeded.
“Anyone who doesn’t believe in this – it should be dry for him. [Israel’s first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion said, ‘Whoever doesn’t believe in miracles in the Land of Israel isn’t a realist.’ I invite everyone to the Western Wall on Thursday at 15:30 for the prayer.”