On February 20, 2020, Benjamin Peng, founder of a pro-Israeli NPO (nonprofit organization), shared the story behind the mass Jewish prayer held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.
Peng said on the NPO's WeChat account that the prayer campaign initiated by rabbis on Feb. 16 started from a regular interview program on global issues and the Jewish interpretation by a local TV station conducted on Feb. 13.
On that night, three Jewish rabbis, including Gadi Louzoun who had lived in China's southeastern Foshan for a long time, attended the interview. Gadi Louzoun urged that as leaders of Jewish communities, they should pray for China amid the coronavirus crisis. He said, "We've been praying for China but that is not enough. We should urge the Israelis to pray for China so that the prayer will be more powerful. China offered help to Jews. During World War II, thousands of Jewish people sought asylum in Shanghai, where they lived and prayed. Now it's the time for us to repay them. It's one of our responsibilities to pray for them."
The other rabbis, Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Orthodox Union Israel Chief Executive Rabbi Avi Berman, agreed. They all decided to hold a special prayer activity for the eradication of the plague from China. The venue would be the Western Wall because it was considered as the holiest site for Jews.
There were expressions of support and as well as opposition. Peng added, "The opposition was mainly because there had never been a mass prayer for a country at the Kotel (Western Wall) and only prayers for the world were hosted on important occasions, such as the Day of Atonement and the Lord's Festival of Tabernacles."
One day later, the rabbis set the theme of the prayer as "Israelis praying for China".
On that Sunday, many Israelis and rabbis joined the prayer in front of the Western Wall.
Peng said the prayer lasted about one hour, with the participation of more than 1,000 Jewish people who prayed in circles to symbolize unity. The rabbis prayed 12 times for the pandemic in Hebrew, English, and Chinese.
The campaign aroused great attention in China, becoming one of the hottest topics on social media.
Peng mentioned that at least 100 million Chinese people, including overseas Chinese, read the news about this activity according to the statistics from WeChat and Weibo, and many of them were touched.
- Translated by Karen Luo