Why Routine Is as Important to Prayer as Concentration

Since the advent of the smartphone, it has become a cliché to say that ours is an age of distraction. While concern about distracted praying may be as old as prayer itself, perhaps the threat is now greater than ever. Shalom Carmy reflects on the place of focus in the Jewish way of communication with God:

Preachers often deplore routinized, perfunctory prayer, but it is equally true that the life of prayer suffers most when it lacks the regularity imposed by obligation. We do not always pray with proper passion, but it is in our power at least to foster and sustain the atmosphere that facilitates heartfelt prayer. That, [itself], is part of maturity.

Prayer is a specifically God-oriented activity, and Jewish prayer is not only a privilege but a duty performed at particular appointed times. Hence many of us tend to assign it to a religious domain that is sequestered from the profane parts of our lives. Yet I would submit that what is true of prayer and the maturity inseparable from it has implications for many of our daily “secular” commitments.

The attentiveness and concentration we learn through the discipline of prayer both form and mirror the attitudes essential to the rest of our lives. Work, study, creativity, fidelity, and compassion in our personal relations are all impoverished when we fail to develop the maturity and focus of prayer. All that we do and experience is immeasurably enriched when the life of prayer sustains our daily world.

Read more at First Things

More about: Judaism, Prayer

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem