by Michael Freund
What a difference a few minutes can make.
That thought must surely be running through the minds of dozens of parents and teenagers at the HaNativ HaYeshivati high school in Sderot, after a Palestinian Kassam rocket slammed through the roof of a classroom there this past Sunday.
The day had started like any other, with students attending morning prayers in an adjacent synagogue and then staying behind to hear their teacher deliver a schmooze – a brief discourse on a Torah-related subject.
The classroom was still locked, and some of the students had begun gathering at the door, where they were waiting for their teacher to bring the key. Suddenly, a loud explosion shook the building, as the uninvited projectile punched its way through the ceiling and detonated inside.
One person on the scene described it as follows: “Some students were waiting outside, and the teacher was on his way up – and that’s when all of a sudden the rocket crashed in, hitting the teacher’s chair. The teacher was very emotional, seeing that it had crashed exactly where he would have been sitting minutes later.”
And so, disaster was just narrowly averted. Had the morning service ended earlier that day, or the schmooze been cut short, Sderot might very well have been plunged into a prolonged period of mourning.
Skeptics will undoubtedly attribute this close call to chance or “good luck”, viewing it as just another curious, if inexplicable, twist of fate.
But that explanation just won’t do. Far greater forces are at work here, and it is time for all of us to open our eyes and rouse ourselves to action.
Israel is in danger, real danger. The Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority, Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon, and the growing Al-Qaeda presence along our borders should be enough to make even the most stubborn of optimists lose sleep.
Add to that the existential threat posed by Iran’s homicidal leadership, coupled with growing Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region, and you have a recipe for genuine disaster.
And that is precisely why the Sderot episode should serve as a wake-up call for everyone who loves and supports the Jewish state.
The failed rocket attack on the high school was, in effect, a near-death experience, albeit on a localized scale. And whenever a person, a community or even a nation has a brush with death, it is time to step back and take stock of what is happening.
Simply put, this most recent incident is a miraculous, if somewhat frightening, reminder of just how much our lives, both as individuals and as a collective, are entirely in the hands of G-d.
I don’t presume to speak for Him, but it seems pretty clear that there is a potent lesson to be learned here about the power of prayer.
After all, those kids in Sderot, and their teacher too, are alive today because of it. The headline in Monday’s Jerusalem Post said it best, “Miracle in Sderot: Prayers Save Students from Kassam”.
The fact of the matter is that for far too long, we have put our faith in man, and in ourselves, convinced that our problems will somehow go away.
But recent years have shown us how wrong we have been. Diplomacy has not brought us comfort, nor have our politicians been a source of relief.
We take pride in our achievements in science, our advancements in knowledge, and our prowess on the battlefield, and rightly so. But with all due respect, has any of that forestalled the current crisis we are in?
The same can be said for our leaders. The right has deceived us, the left has disheartened us, and our enemies show no sign of retreat.
For a country with its back up against the wall, buffeted by danger and beset with hostility, the need to reach upward and outward beyond ourselves has never been more acute.
It might sound silly, or even naive, but the time has come to turn to G-d. Throughout our history, the Jewish people have always turned toward Heaven in the face of peril, brandishing the most potent of weapons contained in our armory: the power of prayer. It is time we do so once more.
If our enemies are intent on waging a holy war against us, shouldn’t we deploy our spiritual arsenal too?
As an undergraduate at Princeton University, I took a number of courses in political thought. We were constantly being told that international relations is the sum product of the interplay among the various actors on the world stage, be they people, nations or leaders.
But what the learned professors forgot to mention, of course, is that in addition to the actors, there is also a Director, and it is He who writes the script of what is yet to be.
Prayer gives each of us a chance, a unique opportunity, to appeal to the Director, and to influence the outcome of this production called history.
But we must act quickly, because the clock is ticking, and the danger of a nuclear Iran grows ever more near.
Jews, Christians and others should launch an international campaign of prayer for Israel. We must storm the Heavens, and beseech G-d to intervene at this, the Jewish people’s hour of need.
Synagogues, churches and other houses of worship should lead the call, creating a “prayer shield” around the Jewish state. Now, more than ever, we must utilize our faith.
This week’s events in Sderot were surely terrifying for all those present, after they barely escaped death by just a matter of seconds.
But for the rest of us, let it serve as a timely reminder that prayer has the power not only to change people’s lives, but to save them too. If only we know how to use it.
The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office under former premier Binyamin Netanyahu. He is currently Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people.
This article also appeared in today’s Jerusalem Post.