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Letters to God reach Jerusalem from all over the world

Some are addressed to "Jesus", "All inclusive Chris,", "The Temple of Abraham", "Holy Mary", or the "City of God", but most of the letters which end up in the Israeli Postal Service’s Dead Letter Department simply bear the word "God".

No one really knows how the tradition started of sending letters addressed to God from this little postal service office next to a landmark bakery. Israeli Postal Service general manager Avi Hochman said, however, it is a "huge" responsibility.

The postal service receives up to 2000 letters throughout the year and these are placed between the stones of the Western Wall, the holiest site for Judaism. As Christmas and Hanukah approached, and the Muslim Holiday of Eid Al-Adha was celebrated, the letters were on 9 December being prepared for transfer to the rabbi of the Western Wall.

"We receive these letters and then [feel] we are doing a mitzvah [good deed], by putting it then in the Western Wall," said Hochman. "We are in the holy city of Jerusalem, traditionally considered to be close to God."

The Western Wall, the only remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple which once stood on the Temple Mount, or al-Hiram al-Sharif, as it is called in Arabic, was one of the retaining walls King Herod built to support a platform on which he built the second Jewish Temple. Today it is Islam’s third holiest site with the the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Avi Yaniv, manager of the Dead Letters Department, said most of the letters are written by Christians, some by Jews and fewer by Muslims, though letters have arrived from Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. This year a letter arrived for the first time from Morocco addressed to the legendary Arab leader who defeated the crusaders, "Sallah Adin, Al Quds" (Jerusalem in Arabic). The department also receives letters to Santa Claus, said Yaniv.

According to Jewish tradition, prayers placed in the wall will be answered directly by God.

In recent years many of the letters came from the former Soviet Union, said Yaniv. Many letter writers are under emotional strain and ask for God’s help in financial or employment difficulties, such as one from Spain, Yaniv said. They also seek God’s protection for the health and welfare of their children and spouses.

One young girl, addressing God as "My Father" wrote about her abusive father and in another letter, said Yaniv, a recent widower beseeched God to allow his much-loved wife to appear to him in a dream so he could see her one more time.

Some letters are read, noted Yaniv, largely to satisfy a growing media interest. Most of the letters, however, go unread, though they are all opened so they can be folded and placed in the Western Wall.

(c) Ecumenical News International