Praying for Israel on Yom Ha’atzmaut



 

Our Heavenly Father, rock and
redeemer of Israel:
Bless the State of Israel, the first
flowering of our redemption.
Shield her beneath the wings of
your love;
Spread over her the shelter of
your peace;
Send your light and your truth
to its leaders, officers, and
counselors,
and guide them with your good
counsel.
Strengthen the defenders of our
Holy Land;
Save them and crown them with
victory,
Give the land peace,
and grant everlasting happiness to
her inhabitants.

As we approach Yom Ha’- atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, our hearts are uneasy. The War against Hamas in Gaza continues. Israel is threatened by its neighbors. Domestic political and social issues remain divisive. Trust in Israel’s current government is low.

It is a hard time for us who hold the State of Israel and its people dear. Yet, we take pride in Israel’s successes. We lament its failures. We work for its future. We celebrate it when we can, and we pray for its wellbeing.

Today, our prayers take on special meaning. Through them we can reaffirm our bond to Israel and its people and encourage ourselves to work for their wellbeing.

Over the years, many different prayers for Israel have been composed. While they differ in language and nuance, they express our common concern for Israel’s safety and prosperity, and our hope for a lasting peace.

The best-known prayer comes from the first paragraph of a longer prayer written during the conflict surrounding Israel’s birth. It appears in many siddurim (prayer books) and has been shared widely over the last few months. It draws its imagery from our traditional texts and touches on the hopes and dreams we have for Israel and its people.

It opens by invoking God as “Avinu she be-shamayim” (Our Heavenly Father) a traditional metaphor for God which pictures God as a caring parent–a vision that many find helpful when seeking comfort and protection.

We call on God as the rock and redeemer of the Jewish people. We picture God as our rock, our anchor in times of uncertainty. We imagine God as our Redeemer, the power that guides us through danger.

We ask God to bless the State of Israel described as “the first flowering of our redemption”–words expressing the hope for the renewal of Jewish life after the Shoah (Holocaust). But not every bud produces fruit. From sprouting, every plant needs to be carefully nurtured. Redemption still feels distant, but the establishment of the State of Israel marks a moment of rebirth that presents us with new opportunities to pursue redemption if we so choose.

To help us, we ask God to shield Israel with God’s love and shelter it with God’s peace. However, love and peace are neither tools nor weapons. They are fundamental values which only protect us when we embody them.

Israel’s leaders are people. They share the same strengths and weaknesses, desires and fears that motivate and confound all of us. May they be guided by God’s light and truth to build the just, peaceful and equitable society envisioned by our prophets and sages; a community based on the fundamental truths that all creation expresses God’s goodness and all people reflect God’s image.

Now, as Israel is under attack, we focus our prayers on those who defend Israel. We ask God to crown them with triumph, but we know that the true triumph is not a military victory. So we pray as well for those who take risks for peace and focus on the blessings of peace; not merely the cessation of conflict but the achievement of a full, just, and encompassing peace–the vision of peace inherent in the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom.”

Our prayer ends with one final request: That God grants all the inhabitants of the Land of Israel Jews and Arabs–the blessing of happiness, because we know that until all experience peace and happiness, none of us will truly be blessed.

And to this, we say, “Amen!”