Jewish Prayers From the Heart and Pen of Alden Solovy

For Peace in the Middle East

peace_in_the_middle_east_logo_2[1]This is a prayer about remembering. Yes, it is a prayer for peace, but it is about remembering. What have we forgotten? Jews and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis, share a common lineage. We are brothers and sisters. Click on the triangle in the bar below to listen while you read. The text follows. For more prayers about Israel — including “Israel: A Meditation” and “When Peace Comes” — please click here.

 

For Peace in the Middle East
Sons of Abraham,
Sons of Hagar and Sarah,
Of Isaac and Ishmael:
Have you forgotten the day we buried our father?
Have you forgotten the day we carried his dead body into the cave near Hebron?
Have you forgotten the day we entered the darkness of Machpaelah
To lay our Patriarch to rest?

Sons of Esau and Jacob:
Have you forgotten the day we made peace?
The day we set aside past injustices and deep wounds to lay down our weapons and live?
Or the day we, too, buried our father? Have you forgotten that we took Isaac’s corpse into that humble cave
To place him with his father for eternity?

Brother, I don’t remember crying with you.
Sister, I don’t remember mourning with you.
We should have cried the tears of generations.
We should have cried the tears of centuries,
The tears of fatherless sons
And motherless daughters,
So that we would remember in our flesh that we are one people,
From one father on earth and one Creator in heaven,
Divided only by time and history.

One G-d,
My brother calls you Allah.
My sister calls you Adonai.
You speak to some through Moses.
You speak to some through Mohammed.
We are one family, cousins and kin.

Holy One,
Light of truth,
Source of wisdom and strength,
In the name of our fathers and mothers,
In the name of justice and peace,
Help us to remember our history,
To mourn our losses together,
So that we may,
Once more,
Lay down our weapons and live.

G-d of All Being,
Bring peace and justice to the land,
And joy to our hearts.

© 2010 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.

Postscript: The repetition in this prayer is deliberate–asking “have you forgotten?”–and calling on readers to “remember.” Another deliberate repetition: the use of the  words “peace” and “justice,” which resonate for all sides of the conflict. This was originally posted for Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, and Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israeli Independence Day, April 19 and 20, 2010. Could there be a better way to honor fallen soldiers — or to celebrate independence — than to make peace? Special thanks to Rabbi Peter Knobel for his guidance. For more prayers about Israel and prayers for peace, please click here.

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11 Responses to “For Peace in the Middle East”

    • tobendlight

      Irwin, thanks for your continued support. Please feel free to read it at your synagogue. It would be great if you could mention tobendlight.com or kavanat-or.com. If you’d like to print and distribute it in some fashion, please let me know and I’ll send you a permission letter.

      Reply
  1. Jerri Zbiral

    Nice prayer — thanks. I have one request though: When you say “Sons of Abraham, Sons of Hagar and Sarah” and “Sons of Esau and Jacob”, could you also include “daughters”? When only the masculine gets mentioned, then I feel left out.

    Reply
    • tobendlight

      Interesting that you point that out. I originally wrote the intro paragraphs with references to both sons and daughters, but my understanding is that that’s not true to the text of either the Torah or Koran. My concern is that a biblical error could become a problem getting the message heard by all communities. That to me is paramount. Since gender balance is recognized/created/honored later in the prayer — referring twice to brothers and sisters and once to fathers and mothers — I’ve opted to keep the historical section true to the text. I don’t anticipate changing that.

      Reply
    • Larry Kaufman

      Jerri, maybe Abraham should have kept trying, with one or both of his women, for a daughter — but whether you take Torah as historical record or purely as literary inheritance, the source is the source, and Alden’s use of it protects the integrity of his own document in protecting the integrity of his metaphor.

      You — and your sisters — have clearly not been left out by by the poet/prayermaker. But Alden is clearly on firm ground in not photoshopping imaginery daughters into the patriarchal families, and perhaps the one “real” daughter incorporated into the record, Dinah, may have provided a proximate cause for the enmity the prayer seeks to heal.

      Reply
  2. Jerri Zbiral

    I see “the sons & daughters of Abraham” going 1,000,000,000,000 ++ generations past Abraham, not just the first generation issue from Abraham having had sex w/ the wives….

    Although I understand your wanting to be true to the Torah & Koran (neither text being very kind to women), everything is really up for interpretation & discussion (isn’t that what we do every week at Kahal (temple) services?). In my personal discussions w/ a Rabbi prior to my conversion, he said that all peoples, Jews & others, stood at Sinai. This is not what the Torah says, but he permitted himself the liberty to interpret the text somewhat differently & bring it into the 21st century. I feel the same w/ your prayer, even more so actually. Since it is a newly composed creative piece by you & not exact text lifted from sacred texts, you also can do things differently. “Sons & daughters of Abraham” can extend to the current generation.

    To say “sons” right off the bat, in the 1st sentence, immediately excludes me as a woman & sets negative tone for the prayer, even though you redeem yourself further on w/ “sister & brother”. This is a highly personal thing w/ me & other women may not feel the same way or as strongly as I do. But frankly, if I didn’t know you & who you are, I would have stopped reading after the second line.

    It’s just who I am. I don’t like to be left out.

    Reply
  3. Sunny

    A pleasure to read and so very true. Thank you for the timely and moving reminder.

    Reply
  4. Betsy Fuchs

    This prayer calls to mind a prayer/meditation I wrote “If More Prayed” because the coming together of the brothers to bury their father is similar to those of different faiths coming together to pray across the abyss of their differences.

    I share my prayer and related thoughts about it here in gratitude for the dialogue that you Alden have opened up through your beautiful prayers.

    If More Prayed
    We pray to you God and ask that you take heed of us humans
    And move us towards what is good.

    To pray for peace does no harm but it does not guarantee peace.
    Yet it can bring to mind what must be done to move towards peace.

    To pray for healing does no harm but it does not guarantee healing.
    Yet it can soothe and comfort the afflicted, to know that others are praying for them
    And that others are “holding them in their thoughts.”

    If more prayed:
    Prayers could quiet us down, calm us down for at least a few moments.

    If more different ones prayed together:
    We could pray with each other instead of going to war against each other.

    If more prayed: We could pray for the evil-doers to repent.

    If the evil-doers prayed with the rest of us: Prayers might reconcile us to each other.

    If more and more prayed for peace, for healing, for good: Miracles could happen!

    Additional thoughts I have about the prayer “If More Prayed;”
    I contemplate the possibility that evil-doers, those intent on harming individuals, groups or nations, might pray with the rest of us for peace, for healing, and for good. I know it is naïve to think that this could ever happen and also to imply that all prayers have good and peaceful intent. But if (and this is a huge if) we all prayed together and shared prayers of our different traditions, who knows what miracles could happen!

    Reply
  5. tobendlight

    Thanks to Rabbi Judy Chessin who posted this on my personal Facebook wall regarding Pesach 5771: “I am blessed to have some Arab Israelis at my synagogue’s second Seder tonight. We will read responsively your “Prayer for Peace in the Middle East.” It will surely be the highlight of the evening. Thank you for your words.”

    My response: “It’s a lovely idea, a use I hadn’t imagined. Sharing your plans for the prayer–and your support of my work–are blessings to me. Thanks for letting me know.”

    Reply

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