Prayers for Peace in the Middle East
by Alden Solovy
We do not hear the warning sirens here in Jerusalem, but the city sounds different, as if suddenly this town began holding its breath. We are, like the rest of the nation. Like Jews all over the world. And like Jews everywhere, we’re praying for the sons and daughters of our people who are risking their lives to end the rain of missiles on Israel from Gaza.
This is a three-prayer liturgy for use as Operation Pillar of Defense continues. The first is a new prayer is for the safety of soldiers serving in the IDF, as well as a successful mission. Although most of this prayer is new, I’ve taken the three indented lines from “Gilad, Home at Last: A Prayer of Rejoicing and Healing” and one paragraph from “In Times of War.” The prayer is titled: “For the IDF, Operation Pillar of Defense.” Hebrew translation of this prayer by Elen Rochlin.
The second is a prayer for terrorists to put down their weapons, called “To the Terrorist.” I wrote it as part of “A Liturgy for 9-11.” I wrote the liturgy at the request of the HUC-JIR continuing education blog Tzeh U’limad, where it first appeared.
The third is a prayer for peace in the Middle East. The prayer envisions a time when all of the children of Abraham recognize our mutual father, our mutual brotherhood. It draws on the hope we can find in two parallel moments in Torah, when Isaac and Ishmael buried their father together and when Jacob and Esau did the same. It’s called “For Peace in the Middle East.”
So, the rhythm of this liturgy moves from the specific immediate need for the safety of our soldiers and a successful end of the operation to our hopes and aspirations for a peaceful future.
We wait. Moment by moment we wait. We’re holding our breath. And we pray.
Here’s a liturgy for Operation Pillar of Defense, as well as a link to more of my prayers for Israel:
For the IDF, Operation Pillar of Defense
Rock of Israel,
Our sons and daughters,
Our brothers and sisters,
Our family and friends,
Have been called to serve
In the name of peace and justice
In Operation Pillar of Defense
To defend and to protect our land
From violence and assault,
From kidnappers and terrorists,
From the rain of missiles from Gaza.
We stand with the defenders of Israel.
We honor the guardians of Zion.
We hold dear the sentries of Am Kadosh.
Grant our leaders insight and strength
To guide our nation on a path of wisdom,
Using our power and might with courage, with caution and with care.
Bless the injured and wounded with Your healing hand
And their families with Your loving grace.
G-d of Old,
We know the price of safety,
We know the cost of security,
We know the dangers ahead.
This is not easy.
This is not desired.
And yet, we cannot be held captive
To hatred and violence.
How much longer should we wait?
Source of Peace,
Grant a swift and successful end to this operation.
Keep our soldiers safe,
And let our soldiers keep us safe.
Return them swiftly in life and in health
To the loving arms of our people.
For the IDF, Operation PIllar of Defense (in Hebrew)
לצה”ל, מבצע עמוד הגנה
בְּנֵי מִשְׁפָּחָה וִידִידִים
בְּשֵׁם הַשָּׁלוֹם וְהַצֶּדֶק
בְּמִבְצָע עַמּוּד הֲגָנָה
לְהָגֵן וְלִשְׁמוֹר עַל אַרְצֵנוּ
מִגֶּשֶּׁם הַטִּילִים מֵעַזָּה.
נַעֲמֹד עִם מָגִנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
נְכַבֵּד אֶת שׁוֹמְרֵי צִיּוֹן.
נוֹקִיר אֶת הָעוֹמְדִים עַל הַמִּשְׁמָר שֶׁל עַם קָדוֹשׁ.
הַעֲנֵק לְמַנְהִיגֵינוּ תּוֹבָנָה וְכוֹחֲ
לְהַנְחוֹת אֶת עַמֵּנוּ בְּנָתִיב שֶׁל חָכְמָה,
בְּנַצְּלָם אֶת עָצְמָתֵנוּ בְּאוֹמֶץ, בִּזְהִירוּת וּבִתְשֹוֹמֶת לֵב.
בָּרֵך אֶת הַנִפְגָעִים וְאֶת הַפְּצוּעִים בְּיָדְךָ הַמְרַפֵּאת
וְאֶת מִשְׁפְּחוֹתֵיהֶם בְּאַהֲבָת חַסְדֶךָ.
יוֹדְעִים אָנוּ מַהוּ מְחִיר הַבְּטִיחוּת,
יוֹדְעִים אָנוּ מַהִי עָלוּת הַבִּטָּחוֹן,
יוֹדְעִים אָנוּ מַהֵן הַסַּכָּנוֹת לְפָנֵינוּ.
אֵין זֶה קַל.
אֵין זֶה מְבֻקָּשׁ.
וַעֲדַיִין לֹא נוּכַל לִהְיוֹת מֻחְזָקִים בַּשֶׁבִי
בִּידֵי שִׂנְאָה וְאַלִּימוּת.
עַד מָתַי נְחַכֶּה?
הַעֲנֵק הַשְׁלָמָה מְהִירָה וּצְלֵיחָה למִבְצָע זֶה.
שְׁמֹר עַל חַיָּלֵינו בְּבִטָּחוֹן,
וְתֵן לְחַיָּלֵינוּ לִשְׁמוֹר עָלֵינוּ בְּבִטָּחוֹן.
הָשִׁיבֵם עַד מְהֵרָה בַּחַיִּים וּבִשְׁלֵימוּת
לִזְרוֹעוֹת הַאַהֲבָה שֶׁל עַמֵּנוּ.
To the Terrorist
You who would hold the sky captive,
The sea prisoner,
The land in chains…
You who hide in caves,
Retreat to the wilderness,
Disappear behind false names and forged papers…
You who smuggle guns and arms,
Hide rockets in cities and bombs in homes,
Build weapons against the innocent and the bystander…
You whose designs are destruction,
Whose plans are fear,
Whose joy is hate…
You who harden your hearts
And wrap yourselves in death…
What evil has robbed you of your love,
What lies have invaded your minds
So that you choose to die in order to kill?
We who love our lives and liberty
Stand firm and strong against terror.
We will defend our nation and our people.
We will protect our land and our homes.
And we pray for you to find hope and comfort
In lives of peace.
For Peace in the Middle East
Sons of Abraham,
Sons of Hagar and Sarah,
Of Isaac and Ishmael:
Have you forgotten the day we buried our father together?
Have you forgotten the day we carried his dead body into the cave near Hebron?
Have you forgotten the day we entered the darkness of Machpaelah to lay our Patriarch to rest?
Sons of Esau and Jacob:
Have you forgotten the day we made peace?
The day we set aside past injustices and deep wounds to lay down our weapons and live?
Or the day we, too, buried our father together? Have you forgotten that we took Isaac’s corpse into that humble cave to place him with his father Avraham for eternity?
Brother, I don’t remember crying with you.
Sister, I don’t remember mourning with you.
We should have cried the tears of generations.
We should have cried the tears of centuries,
The tears of fatherless sons
And motherless daughters,
So that we would remember in our flesh that we are one people,
From one father on earth and one Creator in heaven,
Divided only by time and history.
My brother calls you Allah.
My sister calls you Adonai.
You speak to some through Moses.
You speak to some through Mohammed.
We are one family, cousins and kin.
Light of truth,
Source of wisdom and strength,
In the name of our fathers and mothers,
In the name of justice and peace,
Help us to remember our history,
To mourn our losses together,
So that we may,
Lay down our weapons and live.
G-d of All Being,
Bring peace and justice to the land,
And joy to our hearts.
Alden Solovy is a liturgist, poet, teacher, editor and writing coach, as well as an award-winning essayist and journalist. He’s written for daily, weekly and monthly newspapers, magazines, e-newsletters and blogs. His short fiction has been published in the Jewish and secular press. His work will appear in the forthcoming CCAR Press book, Mishkan R’fuah: Where Healing Resides.