TEL AVIV – Hundreds of worshipers gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Sunday to pray for the recovery of people afflicted by coronavirus and to ask God to stop the outbreak of the disease.
The event was led by Chief Rabbi of Safed and president of the Rabbinical Community Association, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, in partnership with the Israeli branch of the Orthodox Union, the U.S.’ largest Orthodox Jewish organization.
Worshipers recited prayers and read Psalms, sang songs and danced around an installation in a spiritual drive to hamper the outbreak of the virus that is gripping the world. The installation in the men’s section of the Jewish holy site was inscribed with the words: “The People of Israel pray for the sake of China” in Hebrew and Chinese.
“Millions and millions of people are going through tremendous suffering in China and outside China,” Rabbi Avi Berman, executive director of the Israeli branch of the Orthodox Union, told the Jerusalem Post.
“As Jews, we believe that God has the power to send healing. We are not doctors, but we can pray.”
Several Chinese officials in Israel also attended the ceremony.
“The Chinese Embassy in Israel would like to extend its sincere appreciation for the sympathy, support and solidarity expressed by the Jewish people. We will never forget it,” the embassy said.
Berman also noted the secondary challenges China is facing as a result of the virus, including the country’s economic standstill, and the decision by major airlines to cancel flights.
He lauded the Chinese government for the extraordinary lengths it is taking to prevent the further 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. The Chinese people represent one sixth of the world and many are affected also in the United States, in Europe, in Asia,” Berman said.
“We should all worry about what is happening and come together to do something about it. I can tell you that since the end of Shabbat my phone has not stopped for a moment to ring or receive messages from schools, communities or organization wishing to participate or to show their support,” he added.
“Every single person in the world has the ability to pray in their own words. King David, who went through very hard times, composed beautiful prayers that we can use,” Berman said.
Vera Schwarcz, a Professor of Chinese history at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, attended the event.
“I am delighted that so many people came in spite of the weather. I believe in the power of tefillot [prayers],” she said. “I also believe that this is a place of emet, of truth, while the Chinese government has been spreading a lot of misinformation. I think this gathering is also a way to uncover and elevate the truth.”
A long shofar blast marked the conclusion of the event.
“In time of need we all come together and with the help of God we hope that the coronavirus will soon be cured. However, it is important to also remember to come together in normal times and not to lose sight of all the good that exists in the world,” Berman said.