This photograph of a large group of Jews praying in the middle of the day was not taken at Sacher Park in Jerusalem during Passover vacation, but on the front lawn of the White House, in the course of celebrating the signing of the historic peace agreements. Many of the Jews who participated in the ceremony stopped and stood together for the Mincha (afternoon) prayer. Even as history is being written, the Jewish pulse beats with obligation. It reminds me of the patriarch Jacob, who, in the historic moment of greeting his son Joseph, after 22 years of separation, pauses to say the Shema Yisrael prayer in its proper time and only afterwards embraces his son, according to midrash.
It seems to me that this photograph represents something even more profound. Precisely because of the pride and confidence in our Jewish identity were we able to reach this milestone, the peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain. When we know who we are and demonstrate self-respect, the world acknowledges and respects us. This is underscored in the verse quoted yesterday: “The Lord will grant strength to his people; the Lord will bless His people with peace” (Psalms 29:11). Within the strength of our Jewish identity and its powerful expression, we achieve peace.
Yesterday’s achievement came as the unbelievable conclusion to an unbelievable year. If they had told us a year ago that shops and airports would be closed, school canceled, that words like “pandemic,” “coronavirus,” and “Zoom” would take over our lives, we would not have believed it. If they had told us that two leading Arab states would openly and proudly sign peace agreements with the State of Israel, and even sing Hatikva, we would not have believed it.
It transpires that the world can change in the twinkling of an eye, for good or for bad, and so too ourselves. Look how readily we began to wear masks and now begin to plan vacations in Dubai. Let’s hope that 5781 will bring with it as many surprises as possible, but all of them positive. For this is precisely what those on the White House lawn requested at the end of the Mincha prayer:
Grant peace, goodness, blessing, grace, loving-kindness and mercy to us and to all of Israel Your people… Blessed are You Hashem who blesses His people Israel with peace.
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.