Religion & Beliefs

A Place for Prayer

Every year, the Israeli Postal Authority receives thousands of letters from around the world addressed to God. The issue of this specific type of undeliverable mail is presumably faced by postal authorities in other countries as well, but in Israel … Read More

By / December 17, 2008

Every year, the Israeli Postal Authority receives thousands of letters from around the world addressed to God. The issue of this specific type of undeliverable mail is presumably faced by postal authorities in other countries as well, but in Israel the mailman actually makes an effort to deliver. Last week, Postal Authority Director-General Avi Hochman handed over a few boxes with letters to God to the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz. The rabbi subsequently placed the letters in cracks in the wall, which according to popular Jewish belief will boost the chances of one’s prayers being heard.

It turned out that this event actually was considered a news item, judging by the sizable pack of press photographers that covered it. I am sure there were more important things going on in Israel that day (just a hunch), yet the news crews acquiesced when they were diverted to the Western Wall.

The Government Press Office, which had sent out emails announcing the event, probably thought that it would reflect well on Israel: the Postal Authority going out of its way to find a creative solution to that growing pile of undeliverable mail and Rabbi Rabinovitz getting a chance to say a few words about how God accepts the prayers of all mankind, Jews and non-Jews alike. It kind of felt like Christmas, an illusion that was shattered when the rabbi recited Shir Lama’alot (Psalm 121) instead of singing Joy to the World with the Director-General.

It seems kind of cute, but think about it: leading officials of the Zionist Entity are finding the time to serve the whims of crazy people from around the globe that actually put stamps on envelopes that read, "To God, Jerusalem, Israel." Most journalists are probably too cynical to be outraged by these implications, so they file coy little articles about how it is surprising that people still depend on snail mail when they write to God now that it is so much more convenient to send an email, and besides, by now everybody should have learned that it is yeshiva students and not God who reads those little notes that you stick into the Kotel.

This and similar "news" items reinforces the image of Jerusalem (and Israel) as being a place that is detached from reality, which was probably not what the Government Press Office had intended. But this place obviously is set apart in a remarkable way, which is a difficult thing to convey to people that do not live here. A lot of things that make perfect sense here are considered outlandish or outright pathological in other parts of the world, which made this event both disturbing and comforting at the same time. Disturbing because, well, the whole thing was insane, and comforting because there was an order in the insanity, a place for it.