Prayer in a Time of Pandemic

Considering the growing fears that the spread of the coronavirus infection may turn into a global epidemic, Daniel Johnson reflects on the value of prayer:

In past times of plague, prayer was not only humanity’s last resort but often the only one. Today, fortunately, there is a great deal that we can do to prevent or mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. But we are also beginning to realize that in our globally interconnected era, there is a high price to be paid for any interruption in trade or travel. Our best laid plans are of limited effect; and the freedom of movement that we prize is now problematic.

Hence this is a time when the power of prayer comes into its own. Prayer does not presuppose faith. We do not all pray to the same God or gods. Many people who do not believe in any God, who never visit a church or mosque or temple or synagogue, nevertheless find comfort in prayer.

The Christian understanding of prayer, notes Johnson, draws on a Jewish belief that prayer is generally “not about asking God to do what we want.”

It is not given to us human beings to determine everything that befalls us in our lives. We must learn to accept our frailties and our insignificance in this often unforgiving world.

Yet through prayer we are reminded that none of us is alone. Our cries are heard, even if we do not know it. Faced with challenges that surpass our strength, we can take comfort in the idea that each and every one of us does matter, if only we open ourselves to the idea of something beyond ourselves. To pray is to be human; to be human is to pray.

Read more at The Article

More about: Coronavirus, Medicine, 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