Prayer at Temple Site Gets 'Really Tweet'
For everyone who has ever dreamed of having a direct line to G-d - your prayer has been answered. The Almighty is just a Tweet away.
In an interview with Israel National Radio's Yishai Fleisher, 25 year-old university student and founder of TweetYourPrayers.org Alon Nir says his time is consumed with keeping up with the steady bombardment of prayers sent to him daily on the popular networking site, Twitter. After printing, cutting, and rolling the notes into tiny scrolls, those prayers are placed in Jerusalem's Western Wall, a remnant of the Holy Temple which was destroyed by the Romans 2,000 years go.
Inspired by the use of Twitter by Iranian dissidents following this summer's Iranian election controversy and ensuing riots, Nir decided to use Twitter to serve his nation, too.
"Just a few days later [in July, after the Iranian election riots], the idea hit me to connect the 2,000 year old wall to the internet," said Nir. "It picked up very rapidly in a very, very short time. It's only been around since the beginning of July, and since then I've been swamped with requests and prayers pouring in."
All of the prayers that come in via Twitter will find their place at the Wall
Nir told Fleisher he has already stuffed roughly 3,000 prayers in crevices of the Kotel (Western Wall), with approximately 2,000 people waiting to have their prayers printed, rolled, and deposited in the holy spot.
Placing notes in clefts of the Wall is a Jewish custom hundreds of years old. Jewish scripture records the Holy Temple, and the Western Wall, as the place where the Divine Presence rests more than any other place on earth, making it the world's most auspicious place to have one's pleas heard. Tradition states that the Creator of the Universe Himself reads the prayers placed in the wall, and that all uttered prayers from around the world go to the site of the Temple before ascending to Heaven.
Notes written using Nir's Twitter service – which is free – can be no more than 140 characters in length, due to Twitter constraints. (photo: Kotel cleaners at work)
Yet they keep coming, making Nir's non-profit endeavor a time-consuming one. Nir told Fleisher he's looking "for a sponsor to help hire programmers, someone to automate… I'd really like to keep this operation going in the long run, and I start university soon in October, and I also have to pay my tuition and pay my bills," said Nir.
He also has had to pay for gas to drive the notes to Jerusalem, not to mention that the notes "finished my laser jet toner." "It's a free of charge service, and I'd like to keep it that way," said Nir, "but I'm going to need help, and I'm optimistic, and I believe help will present itself."
Nir says he has already received a lot of help from Twitter users around the world, mostly in the form of prayers. "One of the notes I really liked, he wrote a public prayer so everyone could see it," said Nir. "He wrote that G-d would not give me more than I can handle. And that really helped me out, because when you are swamped with thousands of prayers pouring in, and there was a crazy week in which I got within just a few days 2,000 – 3,000 prayers (due to publicity from coverage in the Associated Press, CNN, Fox News and LA Times). It really lifted my spirit, because I knew that I'm given a certain amount of prayers, but not more than I can handle..."
Due to the heavy volume of prayer requests, Nir considered burning all the prayers onto a CD and placing it in the Wall, but ultimately decided to stick with the more time consuming, traditional means of getting the prayers to the holiest place on Earth. "The more authentic it is, the better," said Nir, "but I have found that people are really grateful even with this service. They don't care [if] it's printed by a printer with computer font and not handwritten in Hebrew. They're just thrilled to have any opportunity to place a note in Jerusalem, and it means a lot to them."
After all that effort, what to do if one's prayer isn't answered? "Take it up with the Big Guy upstairs," says a FAQ on TweetYourPrayers.org, "we're just the middle-men."
Regardless of the prayer or it's corresponding result, Nir is determined to continue placing notes in the Wall for Jews and non-Jews from across the planet.
"I'm happy to say that I was determined not to lose a prayer then… and not now will I lose [a] prayer," promised Nir. "It won't happen. If it takes me a bit longer this time, then so be it, but at the end of the day, all of the prayers that come in via Twitter will find their place at the Wall."
Nir, a resident of Tel Aviv, has faced some ridicule and scoffing from cynical colleagues, but he takes it in stride.
"I've been written about in more blogs and newspapers and websites on the internet more than I could ever even know about, not to say even read," said Nir. "Last time I Googled myself, there were over 100,000 results."
"The great majority of [the articles] really praise me for what I do, and really praise the cause and the execution," said Nir. "So why should I waste my time reading about the criticism?... I'd rather focus on the good than on the bad, and I think everyone should take my advice on it."