Sayed Kashua: No Choice But to Pray
FROM PEN WORLD VOICES' EVENING OF PRAYER AND MEDITATION
The following was written for last night’s PEN World Voices evening of prayer and meditation.
It’s really scary to write a prayer. I’ve never been numbered among those who pray, at least not officially.
I’ve never been numbered among the believers, though I’ve always been scared like hell of God.
My mother said there is a God, my father that there isn’t. While I, fearful of rousing the wrath of the gods, decided, just to be on the safe side, to write books rife with sins in Hebrew. If my mother’s right and Allah exists, he would surely only understand Arabic and wouldn’t bother to read my writings in Hebrew. And if God can read Hebrew, then apparently the Jews are right and one way or the other I go to hell.
And to what God am I supposed to pray? The God who can fulfill wishes, protect me against disasters, and make dreams come true? If so, then I beg of you, my bank manager, and pray that one day I will at last have credit history and so will be able to buy a house and a car and put my kids through college.
Or should I pray to that omniscient God who accompanies my every step and knows my most trivial thoughts, my greatest weaknesses, and everything else that’s in the Google of my heart? If so, I implore the American and Israeli intelligence agencies to spare me and my family, and I pray that you will do nothing to imperil my American visa and will remove the obstacles to my obtaining a Green Card.
But still, and despite everything, sometimes, and perhaps too frequently, I find myself muttering “Ya Rab”—“oh, God.” Whenever the drums of war beat powerfully in my ears, I get down on my knees and bend my head to the earth. I pray knowing that no prayer is heard beyond death’s reverberations.
Last summer, a few days before I left Jerusalem with my family, I had no choice but to try a prayer.
Oh, God, please God, I beg you, let no more be killed, please God, make all this stop, and immediately. Please, I’m begging, make the Jews think about the children of Palestine. Please God, make them understand in Israel that people with no hope live in Gaza and the West Bank, that life there is barely worth living. Please, make Israel realize that an oppressed people lives there, and sees Israel as the source of all its afflictions.
Please God, make the Palestinians in Gaza stop firing missiles, cause them under Hamas to abandon their empty victory slogans, please make them find some other way to struggle against the siege.
God, make both sides understand that the other side doesn’t understand only the language of force. Silence, please, all the quarrel-mongers and warmongers who begin their remarks by declaring that they are not eager for battle. Please let the voice of people who believe in justice, equality, and peace be heard here. Please make it happen that people capable of apologizing, admitting mistakes, and expressing weaknesses will be the leaders. People from both sides who are ready to do everything, try everything, to preserve human life. Please God, make people understand that no nation is superior to any other nation, and that there is no way to compare occupier and occupied.
Cause quiet to reign, God, let peace prevail between Jews and Arabs. Let children everywhere in the world not have to hear the noise of shelling, let them know only joys, amusement parks instead of emergency rooms, and toys instead of implements of war. Please God, I have no one to turn to but you, please take care of my children and all the children in the world.