Because of my prayers, the recent conflict in Gaza suddenly stopped. Or so I'd like to believe.
I was standing on my head outside my house in our small beach village in Northern Israel. It happened to be the day before the ceasefire took effect. I fell over -- my legs dropping -- and stayed where I was, in a yoga position called "Child's Pose." The position was exactly like the position of Muslim prayer. And so I stayed there. And I prayed.
Perhaps it was sacrilegious, a Jew with her forehead touching the soil of the Holy Land, adopting a Muslim prayer stance. Yet, perhaps my forging two belief systems, merging two distinct religions into one harmonious, heartfelt murmurings, somehow shifted the alliance of the sun, moon and stars?
I prayed to soften the hearts of men.
And then it happened.
There was a ceasefire.
My husband, Jonny, a former Israeli commando, thought I was nuts. "What did your prayers possibly do?"
Although a proud Jew, he hates the religion. Last time he had a run in with prayer was when he was 16, and his mother was gravely ill with breast cancer.
"Pray for her and she'll get better," his rabbi had told him.
He prayed and prayed, as only a 16-year-old about to lose his mother has the power to do. And she died a few months later. He stopped praying.
A part of me -- the rational, right-side-of-my brain part -- says that prayers are like throwing coins into a dry fountain in Piazza Navona. So many coins. So many requests. So many wishes. How can one God handle them all? Every time I go to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I stand with the women on our side of the prayer wall and get caught up in the fervency. I watch women stick handwritten notes into the crevices of the ancient stones. Do they really think they can friend God? Big shots, thinking that God will read their pokes!
But every religion around the world has prayer in common. Maybe that is what makes humans different. Dogs talk. Horses communicate. But do they really pray? And if we're made of the same elements as the stars -- all of us composed of energies, atoms, molecules, carbon and oxygen and liquid -- can't we affect what goes on beyond our kin?
Maybe it's not so farfetched. Maybe the motive of God was to create us to feel like we have some kind of pwer to tip the scales of destiny. Who knows?
I'd like to believe that prayers are like pixie dust. But they won't get me to win the PowerBall; they won't prevent me from getting sick; they won't always save my children, my neighbors, my friends. So what's the point? Why pray?
Because prayers connect us to the unseen, the unknown, the something that might be out there. Prayer provides us with some kind of relief, if not a form of grace. And what is grace? It is breathing in and out and not wanting to be anywhere except in the breath.
I don't know why I pray. All I know is that I feel better afterwards. I pray in thanks for the little things: the easy peel of the bright orange clementine, the warmth of my socks, the thread count of my brain -- still functioning. Even in the midst of war, we have to find things to be thankful about. That it isn't worse, even that.
But then I remember reality and I have a problem with prayer. During the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, for example, I prayed for my son who was serving in an Israeli paratroopers unit that had just gone into Lebanon. I prayed hard. My son was saved. But his friend, Michael Levin of Langhorne, Pa. -- fighting alongside him -- was killed. Did my prayers shelter my son -- and somehow cancel out another mother's prayers?
Still, I continue to pray. I pray for all the people in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the people in Israel, the leaders of all sides. I pray that we'll be given the answers for how to solve this seemingly unsolvable conflict. I prayed that the Gaza Strip becomes the Hong Kong of the Middle East -- just as loud, lit and manic -- selling Armani jackets instead of missiles. I pray that my words carry same weight as any Crusader, mujahedeen or rabbi.
I pray even if I don't know why I'm praying or who I'm praying to. I don't have a choice. I have no other tools. Nothing else comes close. My heart is full. My heart is empty. I pray.