Community Blog Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem

By Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

Dear friends,

Once again, our hearts are aching at the escalation of violence throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Once again, those of us watching, waiting, worrying from afar are searching for the right words — to express our love and support for dear colleagues, friends, family members in Israel who are under attack and to pray for their safety; to express our concern for all those — Jew, Muslim, and Christian — created in God’s image, who are currently in harm’s way; to express our dismay at the political choices that have brought us here, again (and again); to express our distrust of all those who would cynically use the current violence to serve their own political interests; to express our longing to find a way forward that honors and protects the humanity, dignity, and security of all the inhabitants of Israel, and her neighbors in the Palestinian Territories and beyond.

As I listen for voices of wisdom in this moment, I am moved by the words of Rabbi Michael Marmur, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Jewish Theology at HUC-JIR’s Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem, who wrote this a few days ago:

“I don’t pretend that it is easy to navigate the various interests and sensitivities . . . Somehow all Jerusalemites must be protected, and their right to safety and self-expression be upheld. It’s immensely hard to get this right. But I want to suggest that the call of the Psalmist שאלו שלום ירושלים (sha’alu sh’lom Yerushalayim) should not only be translated as ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem.’ It must also mean in these dark moments, ‘ask what needs to happen for Jerusalem to have a chance of a sustainable and equitable peace’. It was 40 years ago that I first knew I wanted Jerusalem to be my home, and for 30 of those it has been. The city is beguiling and beautiful and bursting with remarkable people . . . it is an epicenter, umbilicus mundi, the navel of the world. Tonight, as the sirens wail, the navel is bleeding. In the coming hours, let’s ask searching questions about the peace of Jerusalem, even as we pray for it.”

In these days of grief and fear, let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for all Israel.

And as we look beyond these days of grief and fear, please God, let us ask with all the humility and courage we can summon, what needs to happen for Jerusalem — for all Israel, for all Palestine — to have a chance of a sustainable and equitable peace.

With an aching heart, and with hope,

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
President, Hebrew College

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