Israeli agriculture minister announces mass 'rain prayer' day at Western Wall

Uri Ariel invites farmers and members of the public for event to reverse below-average rainfall in the country


Israel’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel has drawn derision on social media by organising an official “rain prayer” event.

As the country enters an expected fifth consecutive winter of below-average rainfall, Mr Ariel, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, called on farmers and members of the public to join a day of special prayer at the Western Wall on Thursday.

The move was supported by farmers associations and senior rabbis, but drew hundreds of angry responses on Facebook and Twitter calling upon the minister to focus on more earthly efforts to alleviate the situation.

“I don't want to rain on your parade,” said one Israeli.

“Save your effort. There is no God and he won't bring down much rain. It will be more efficient if you worry about adding more desalination plants.”

But Mr Ariel defended the move in a radio interview, saying that the ministry had increased funds for desalination and aid for farmers.

“Many people do believe in prayer, including me,” he said.

“So whoever wants to pray is welcome, and those who don't believe in it, should be healthy as well. We're not forcing anyone and with God's help, there'll be rain.”

The call came at the end of a relatively rainy week in Israel, but the country’s meteorological service said there was a 47 per cent chance of lower-than-average rainfall between December and February.

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