Cancel Culture Infects the Beautiful Prayer for Israel

Even if a rabbi (or Christian, for that matter) dislikes the current Israeli government, he should still pray for Israel’s success and protection.

| Topics: Israel
A 1,200-year-old Jewish prayer book, or siddur, is displayed at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.
A 1,200-year-old Jewish prayer book, or siddur, is displayed at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. Photo: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90

Editor’s note: This column was written to Jews, but applies also to Christians, many of whom have of late expressed that they will stop praying for Israel in response to the current internal turmoil. But for Bible-believing Christians, it shouldn’t be about Israel per se. It’s about God and the fulfillment of His word and promises.

For many decades, during Shabbat services, Conservative and Religious Zionist Orthodox congregations have recited the heartfelt Prayer for the State of Israel, written by Israel’s chief rabbis in 1948.

The Conservative movement’s Sim Shalom prayer books seem to solely use the prayer’s first paragraph. Reconstructionist Jews, in their Kol Haneshamah prayer books, have also adopted the prayer’s first paragraph, with minor modifications, and made more modifications to latter portions of the prayer.

The prayer’s widely-used first paragraph asks God to bless the State of Israel, the first sprouting of our redemption; to shield Israel with God’s lovingkindness; to envelope Israel with peace; to bestow light and truth and good counsel upon Israel’s leaders, ministers and advisers; to strengthen the hands of the defenders of our holy land and save them and give them the crown of victory; and to grant peace in the land and eternal happiness to its inhabitants.

This is a nonpartisan invocation for Israel’s continuing existence and well-being. The prayer doesn’t endorse any political party or any government leader or minister. Rather, the prayer beseeches the Almighty to bestow light, truth and good counsel on Israel’s leaders and ministers, whoever they may be.

It is thus sad and divisive that a few Conservative rabbis, including the rabbi of New York City’s Congregation Ansche Chesed Jeremy Kalmanofsky, initiated a boycott of this beautiful prayer.  Kalmanofsky stated that he is discontinuing the prayer for his congregation because he believes that Israel’s current leaders are “dastardly” and doesn’t want their efforts to succeed.

Which Israeli efforts do these boycotters of the prayer want to fail?  The Prayer for the State of Israel merely specifically asks for the success of the efforts of the defenders of our holy land.  Even if a rabbi dislikes a current Israeli government, his congregation should surely be able to pray for the success of efforts to protect Israel from her enemies: the Iranian mullahs at the precipice of obtaining a nuclear bomb to wipe Israel off the map; the genocidal Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists with their huge rocket arsenals; the Palestinian Authority which continues stealing Israel’s lands and continues to pay terrorists to murder Jews and Americans; and the Arab terrorists who are shooting, stabbing, ramming, murdering and maiming innocent Jewish children, parents and grandparents.

And after almost two millennia of horrific persecution of the Jewish people when they lacked a state, culminating with six million Jewish souls perishing when Britain slammed shut the gates to pre-state Israel, how can we not pray for the success of the protectors of the Jewish state?

Perhaps those who are boycotting the Prayer for the State of Israel should recall that the recommendation for such a prayer comes from the following passage in the Talmud’s Ethics of the Fathers:

“Rabbi Hanina, the vice-high priest said: pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear it inspires, every man would swallow his neighbor alive.”  (Pirkei Avot 3:2)

In other words, we pray for the welfare of the government to avoid anarchy.

Boycotting the Prayer for the State of Israel, and mislabeling the current government as “dastardly,” encourages the chaos and anarchy created by anti-government demonstrators who are blocking highways, roads, seaports and airports, and violently clashing with the police. Israel can ill afford such chaos, especially at this time when Palestinian Arab terrorists are perpetrating life-threatening terror attacks on Jews every day.

Boycotting praying for Israel can also encourage other boycotts—including the malicious, antisemitic “BDS” economic, academic and cultural boycotts of Israelis and Jews around the world.

But perhaps the biggest losers of the prayer-boycott will be the congregations themselves who stop praying for Israel’s welfare. When we Americans bless and pray for our brethren in Israel, it uplifts our own souls and well-being.  As the Torah enjoins:

“I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.” (Genesis 12:3)

Reciting and hearing the Prayer for the State of Israel is deeply fulfilling.  The prayer has inspired some of the most beautiful, soulful music in the liturgy. Some favorites are the Sol Zim version sung by world-famous Cantors Natenel Hershtik, Azi Schwartz and Yaakov Lemmer; sung by IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson; sung by cantors from around the world; and sung in the full version by Yeshivat HaKotel in the rebuilt Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. (The original Hurva Synagogue was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1721, rebuilt, destroyed by the Arab Legion in 1948 and then rebuilt again after Israel recaptured and reunited Jerusalem.)

I pray that those who are boycotting saying the Prayer for the State of Israel will reconsider.


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2 responses to “Cancel Culture Infects the Beautiful Prayer for Israel”

  1. Mark Watkins says:


    Oh I love this, so true, הִתְפַּלְּלוּ לַשָּׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלַיִם , Tehillim 122:6 !!!

  2. Disciple 1978 says:

    May your prayer be answered. Christians are encouraged, even commanded to pray for all those in authority (1 Tim 2:2) as other scriptures say they were appointed by the Lord anyway. (Rom 13:1) Moses argued who were they but that Israel’s complaint was against the Lord. (Ex 16:8) Can we look back at history and see regimes being changed by prayer? Sometimes it’s the pray-er who needs changed. Israel ignored past warnings and ended up in Babylonian exile. All empires fell when the rubber hit the road and they had to reconcile themselves with the Living God who had appointed them. The British Empire was dissolved in 1966, less than 20 years after they failed to support the creation of Israel. Boycotting prayer for Israel is worse than BDS. Israel is the Lord’s heart for the world and that should always take priority.

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