A prayer for the land and state of Israel, for our times
The traditional prayer for the state of Israel, which is more literally titled “A Prayer for Peace for the State” – tefilah lish’lom hamedinah – was written in 1948 by the chief rabbis of what had up until then been Palestine, in a time of war. The state was under direct attack by the Arab armies, and there was little distinction between peace, survival, and victory.
It is long past time to make such distinctions. Israel and the Jewish people live in a much more complex reality, a democratic reality, where the triumph of one political party or set of goals can change the outlook for peace, and the possibility of justice. In our time, praying for peace for Israel must include praying for the rectification of its relationships with neighboring countries, and with the Palestinian people, some of whom are Israeli citizens, and most of whom are in some way under Israel’s control.
This prayer imagines that the best reality for the Jewish state is also the best reality for all of her citizens and for everyone who lives “in the land,” no matter where they are in relation to the Green Line or Areas A, B and C.
In this year of pandemic, perhaps we should also add to the prayer protection from plague – and if one does that, it would make sense to also ask for protection from famine and exile. (For the latter I would have in mind the exile of Palestinians from their land by settlements or by having their trees torn out by radicalized settlers, as well as our own exile that could be brought on by negating the covenant to respect the land, the poor and the stranger.) NOTA BENE: I have added those words to the prayer you see on the page, but due to a broken computer, I cannot redo the downloadable file for this year. The added words are in bold italics in the English and unvoweled in the Hebrew.
The text of the prayer:
I wore a button like this through the 80's. I don't know if a two-state solution is still possible, but what is not possible is a forever occupation.
Our Nurturer / Our Parent, in heaven and on Earth,
Rock of Israel and its redeemer, bless the State of Israel, so that she may become the beginning of the flowering of our redemption.
Shield her with Your embrace of love and spread over her Your sukkah-shelter of peace, and send Your light and Your righteousness to her heads, ministers, advisers, and judges, and to the nation that elects them, and align them with the spirit of justice from You, as it says, Zion through justice will be redeemed and her captives through righteousness. (Isaiah 1:27)
Rescue all of Your land, from the Jordan River to the sea, from the spilling of blood, and all residing and sojourning there, under every government, from haters without and hatred within, from epidemic and from famine and from exile. Grant peace and abundance and healing throughout the land, and secure calm to her defenders, lasting joy to all her inhabitants, and real hope for all her peoples. And let us say: Amen.
אֹמְנֵנוּ | אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ
צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹאֲלוֹ, בָּרֵךְ אֶת מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל
שֶׁתְּהֵא לְרֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ
הָגֵן עָלֶיהָ בְּאֶבְרַת חַסְדֶּךָ, וּפְרֹשׂ עָלֶיהָ סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶךָ
וּשְׁלַח אוֹרְךָ וְצִדְקֶךָ לְרָאשֶׁיהָ שָׂרֶיהָ יוֹעֲצֶיהָ
וְשׁוֹפְטֶיהָ, וְלַלְּאֹם שֶׁבּוֹחֵר בָּם
וְתַקְּנֵם בְּרוּחַ מִשְׁפָּט מִלְּפָנֶיךָ
שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר ״צִיּוֹן בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה וְשָׁבֶיהָ בִּצְדָקָה.״
הָצֵל נָא אֶת כָּל אַרְצֶךָ בֵּין יַרְדֵּן לַיָּם מִשְּׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים
וְאֶת כָּל הַיּוֹשְׁבִים וְהַגָּרִים בָּהּ תַּחַת כָּל שִׁלְטוֹן
מִשׂוֹנְאִים בַּחוּץ וּמִשִּׂנְאָה בִּפְנִים מִמגפה ומרעב וּמִגלות
וְנָתַתָּ שָׁלוֹם שפע ורפואה בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ וְשַׁלְוָה לִמְגִנֶיהָ
שִׂמְחַת עוֹלָם לְכָל יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ וְתִקְוָה טוֹבָה לְכָל עַמֶּיהָ