.- The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, has asked Christians in the Holy Land to join in prayer and fasting for the relief of a seven-year drought.
Israeli Jews and some Muslims have also been praying for an end to the drought, according to local reports.
Among the Jews and Christians, the seven dry years up to now may recall Biblical events such as the seven years of famine recorded in the book of Genesis, or the three years and six months of severe drought during the ministry of the prophet Elijah.
Patriarch Twal evoked that Old Testament prophet in his message to the priests and lay faithful of Jerusalem, noting that “St. Elijah prayed (for rain) and was answered.”
Without specifying any contemporary cause, the patriarch observed that the years of drought “indicate God's anger upon our land, the Holy Land.”
Although Israeli Jews and Christians might disagree on any prophetic interpretations of the drought's cause, both groups have been praying fervently for its end. The Jerusalem Post reported on Nov. 28 that the following Monday would bring “yet another day” for Jews to fast and pray for rain at the holy city's Western Wall.
Two leading Israel rabbis wrote, on that occasion, that the land was “dry due to our many sins,” although they similarly omitted any mention of specific causes.
Because Christian tradition forbids fasting on Sundays, Patriarch Twal has set aside two days to implore “the gift of rain.” On the second Sunday of the Advent season, Dec. 5, he has encouraged the faithful to focus on prayer for rain.
On the subsequent Friday –the most traditional day of fasting for Christians– he has asked the faithful to fast by means of a simplified or restricted diet, or to perform “any other … act of penance,” as a tangible means of imploring God “with prayers and pleas.”