JERUSALEM, Israel – More than 71,000 people have been infected globally since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
While scientists continue to study the disease now officially renamed by the World Health Organization as “COVID-19,” Israelis are also turning to prayer.
Nearly 1,000 people gathered Sunday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, one of the holiest places in Judaism, to pray for China.
“The Western Wall is a prayer site for Jews and non-Jews. We pray that China will overcome the Coronavirus and that it will not spread in China or elsewhere around the world,” the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, said in a statement.
So far, more than 1,700 people have died from the disease in mainland China.
Despite heavy rain, hundreds of people, along with dozens of Chinese citizens gathered at the holy site to pray for the eradication of the disease. Attendees prayed in Hebrew and Mandarin. One large sign read, “The people fo Israel pray for China."
The shofar was also blown, a symbolic act usually done to ask God for mercy.
The mass prayer was organized by Shmuel Eliyahu, head of the Community Rabbinical Association and Chief Rabbi of Safed. The Orthodox Union, an American network of Orthodox synagogues cosponsored the prayer.
“One-fifth of the world’s inhabitants experience great anxiety. About each and every one of them it was said: ‘Beloved is man for he was created in the image [of God]’ (Mishna Avot, 3:14),” Eliyahu wrote in a press release.
“We are called upon to pray for the people of China,” Rabbi Eliyahu continued. “We are called upon to pray for all the sick in the other countries as well. Pray for the world.”
He said in times of peril the people of Israel are instructed to sing a song of blessing to the Lord.
“There is a tradition held by the people of Israel, that one blessing draws another. And when there was an epidemic in the nation of Israel, King David taught us to thank and bless every favor we receive from God, and so the plague stopped (II Samuel 24). That gift which we received from King David, we want to pass on to the Chinese people.”
“King David taught us to bless with a song,” Rabbi Eliyahu continued, and urged all, “composers, musicians and singers to compose a gift song from Israel to the Chinese people. A song of partnership, of prayer, of blessing.”
Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of the Orthodox Union (OU) in Israel prayed specifically for the doctors fighting the disease.
“There are many doctors and many physicians and many medical experts in the world trying to find a cure for this coronavirus. What we know how to do well is we know how to pray, we know how to talk to God,” said Berman.
“We’re going to pray that the doctors are going to be successful, those that are looking for a cure are going to be successful."