Israel was granted a bit of respite from a multi-year drought as indicated by Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, David Lau’s announcement on Sunday that special prayers for rain no longer need be inserted into the daily services.
“We were blessed and the gates of heaven were opened,” Rabbi Lau said. “And so, henceforth, the public will no longer recite the special prayer for rain, and will focus their request for rain when reciting the ‘bless our year’ [9th blessing in the main prayer recited three times daily], and God will continue to listen to our prayers and give us the rains of blessing.”
Israel has suffered five years in a row of below-average rainfall, leading to dangerously low water levels in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), Israel’s greatest source of freshwater. The current rainy season in Israel began very poorly, with just 45 percent of average rainfall from September through November and only two light rainfalls in December.
Due to the extremely low levels of precipitation, Rabbi Lau had called upon the public in December, to recite universal prayers for rain.
Three weeks later, Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel called for a mass prayer rally at the Western Wall that was led by Rabbi Lau and his Sephardi counterpart, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. Four days later, those prayers were answered in the affirmative with one inch of rain falling overnight, helping to raise the level of the Kinneret by .4 inches.
Nevertheless, the level of the Kinneret remained dangerously low. This situation was somewhat alleviated by substantial rains throughout Israel last week, even causing some flooding in low-lying areas.
The Israel Water Authority (IWA) also acknowledged the significant amount of rainfall over the last several weeks.
“In the last 24 hours there has been a turnaround, and the rains of the past 24 hours have fallen in the right places and are improving the water economy,” the IWA stated towards the end of last week.
“At the same time, the losses are still enormous (due to the four-and-a-half-year-long drought up until this January).”
The IWA noted that the level of the Kinneret rose 2.2 inches just between Thursday and Saturday but still currently stands 3.6 feet below its lower red line and 17.4 feet below its optimal level.
The special provisions for additional prayers in times of drought have in the past, been followed by abundant amounts of rainfall. Back In 2015, the Chief Rabbinate called on the public to pray for rain, and the prayers were answered with significant downpours just one week later.
Three years earlier, a two-month drought led the Chief Rabbinate declare a two-day fast in addition to public prayers. Not long thereafter, approximately eight inches of rain fell in just one rainstorm, and the year concluded with rainfall measurements that almost reached the annual average.