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20 Dec 2008 06:00
Proof that God exists, perhaps? He has a postbox and an address. All you need write is “to God, Jerusalem” and the postman will deliver it for you.
Though it might take some time.
Every year, the staff at Israel Post’s dead letter office in Jerusalem receive hundreds of letters addressed to God.
Once a year, they open the messages and slip them between cracks of the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. Known as the Kotel to Israelis and as the Wailing Wall to others, it is venerated as the last remnant of King David’s temple.
Most dead letters are a simple return-to-sender job, says Avi Yaniv, who runs the dead letter office “but in between these letters we also receive letters to God and because we have no address other than the Wailing Wall, we put them there”.
This year, says Yaniv, there were around 2 000 notes addressed to the Almighty.
As if the postman might be confused about the identity of the recipient, some of the envelopes read: “The Holy, The Great and Big Temple”; “His Reverence, The High Priest, The Holy Temple of God, Jerusalem Holy City of God, Holy Land of Israel”; and “To Almighty God, Alfa and Omega, Jerusalem, Israel”.
Yaniv says Israel Post also receives letters to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and King David, but the chief rabbi at the Western Wall permits only those addressed “to God” to be delivered.
Upon arrival, the mail is sorted into boxes. Correspondence destined for the Wall goes into boxes marked “to God”.
Some mail defeats even the powers of God’s postman, however, and it winds up in a section marked “strange letters”.
One note was addressed to Moshe Dayan, the Israeli military and political leader who died in 1981. Another was sent to Ploni Almoni, which is Hebrew for “anyone”.
Around 90% of the letters to God are from Christians, but Yaniv says he would never deliver them to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christendom’s holiest site in Jerusalem. “They write to God, not a church,” he declares.
The letters come from all over the world, but this year one from Morocco prompted particular interest. It’s the first time someone from the Arab world has written to God in Israel, Yaniv says.
Regardless of origin, the writers have one thing in common; they usually want something from God. Some write their address on the back of the envelope as if they expect a reply.
One man sent his lottery numbers in the hope that God could help him out.
Another man from Russia asked for God’s assistance in bedding a Hollywood actress. Some seek comfort, such as one widower still grieving over his lost wife.
“He wrote that he really missed her. He asked God to bring his wife to him in his dream so that he could see her one more time,” Yaniv said.
“They ask God for everything,” Yaniv says. “But last month I found a letter from a person who didn’t ask for anything. On the contrary, he thanked God for what he had. He had a good wife, a good house and a good job.”—
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