by: Kate Norman
Monday, 17 February 2020 | Dozens of Jewish worshipers gathered at Jerusalem’s Western Wall under a blanket of heavy rain yesterday afternoon to pray for the people affected by the coronavirus epidemic and for a cure. As the virus continues to spread, more than 68,000 people have reportedly been affected, and the official death toll in China is now over 1,600.
“Millions and millions of people are going through tremendous suffering in China and outside China,” a rabbi who helped organize the event told the Jerusalem Post. “As Jews, we believe that God has the power to send healing. We are not doctors, but we can pray.”
Jewish tradition emphasizes an idea called tikkun olam (repairing the world), which Jewish people believe calls them to shine light in the world and make it a better place. As God told Abraham in Genesis 12, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (v.3).
“As the sons of the patriarch Abraham, we have an obligation to everyone created in the image of God,” said Schmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat, in a statement before the event encouraging people to come pray. “The job of Jewish people is to pray for the good of the entire world.”
The event was organized by Rabbi Eliyahu in coordination with the Orthodox Union, an American Orthodox network. The rabbi highlighted the great suffering from the virus while appealing to Jewish people, whose prayers have a “tremendous impact.”
The executive director of Israel’s Orthodox Union branch noted that his phone buzzed all weekend with support from Jewish schools, communities and organizations. The rabbi, Avi Berman, said the virus is not only affecting the thousands who have been infected, but the whole nation of China as the government has been forced to shut down businesses and quarantine people to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We look at our forefathers and see how, when they saw trouble in the world, they prayed to God to take care of it, they prayed for the sick to recover and for the poor to find sustenance,” Berman told the Jerusalem Post. “The Chinese people represent one sixth of the world and many are affected also in the United States, in Europe, in Asia. We should all worry about what is happening and come together to do something about it.”
Prayers were conducted in Hebrew and Chinese, and the men’s side of the Kotel (Western Wall) was adorned with a temporary banner that read “The people of Israel pray for the sake of China” in Hebrew and Chinese.
Though the coronavirus hasn’t spread to the Jewish state, two Israelis on board a cruise ship currently off the coast of Japan tested positive for the virus. Israeli officials said the couple were taken off the ship, and Israel’s health minister said the Jewish state is sending a doctor to help treat the couple, who reportedly have mild symptoms of the virus.
Posted on February 17, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 17, 2020)
Photo Credit: CSprinkle/bridgesforpeace.com
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