Israeli minister turns to prayer to help relieve drought

Four years of heavy drought have overtaxed Israel's unmatched array of desalination and wastewater treatment plants.

Religious Jews attend a special prayer for rain at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, December 28, 2017. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Religious Jews attend a special prayer for rain at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, December 28, 2017.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
JERUSALEM - With technology coming up short, Israel's agriculture minister sought an unconventional solution on Thursday to end the country's water shortage - rallying a few thousand worshippers at Jerusalem's Western Wall to pray for rain.
Four years of heavy drought have overtaxed Israel's unmatched array of desalination and wastewater treatment plants, choking its most fertile regions and catching the government off-guard, with farmers bearing the brunt.
A man stands in front of the Western Wall during a special prayer for rain in Jerusalem's Old City, December 28, 2017. RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS A man stands in front of the Western Wall during a special prayer for rain in Jerusalem's Old City, December 28, 2017. RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, an Orthodox Jew, has a hand in determining water policy and how the resource is allocated, but to balance the science with the spiritual, he teamed up with leading rabbis to organize a public prayer session.
"We significantly lowered the cost of water, we are carrying out many studies on how to save water in different crops, but prayer can certainly help," Ariel said.
Israelis offer prayers for rain at Western Wall (Reuters)
A crowd of a few thousand gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's old city, the holiest place for Jews to worship, chanting a special prayer to end the drought.
Some pundits were skeptical.
Top-selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published a commentary that said Ariel should instead focus on promoting policies to fight climate change, such as limiting greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.
"Prayer is not a bad thing, but the minister has the ability to influence (matters) in slightly more earthly ways," it said.


Tags rain