The fast of Tisha Be’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, has begun this evening. As I wrote in a previous Tisha Be’Av post:
The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem as well as a whole slew of tragic events that befell the Jewish people on that day:
These include the capture of Bethar, which marked the final defeat of Bar Kokhba‘s rebellion against the Romans, and the razing of Jerusalem by the Romans. The edict of King Edward I compelling the Jews of England to leave the country was signed on the ninth of Av in 1290, the Jews were expelled from Spain on that day in 1492, and World War I broke out in 1914. The sadness and mourning that Jews feel on this day are reflected in the various practices of Tisha B’Av, including abstaining from joyous activities like study of Torah, from eating and drinking, from sexual activity, and from wearing leather.
Here is a chronology of the major events leading up to the Churban (the destruction of the Temples and Jerusalem).
Tisha B’Av is also the anniversary of the traumatic “Hitnatkut”, or “Disengagement” from Gush Katif in Gaza, when 25 Jewish towns were destroyed and 10,000 Jewish residents of Gaza (aka “eevil Jewish settlers”) were expelled from their homes, many of them remaining homeless and jobless to this day, 8 years later, despite having been well-educated and productive members of society beforehand. We feel the results of this criminally misguided move until today, with Hamas now ruling the once beautiful and productive territory, threatening Israel with its rockets and terrorism.
It is traditionally held that Jerusalem was destroyed because of Sinat Hinam – baseless hatred. Sadly there is no shortage of examples even today. In a shocking statement, a senior Shas Rabbi stated that the National Religious Jews - those Jews who wear knitted kipot, the ones who both serve in the IDF and study in yeshiva and also study secular subjects and work in the outside world – are like Amalek, the evil nation whom G-d commanded us to destroy.
This vile statement, amongst others uttered by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the leader of Shas, and other Rabbis, comes against the background of the Israeli government’s attempts to draft yeshiva boys into the IDF and assist in their integration into modern Israeli society.
In a video posted Sunday morning (Hebrew) on the Haredi website Kikar Hashabbat, Rabbi Shalom Cohen, a member of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages and the head of the influential Porat Yosef Yeshiva, is seen calling national religious Israelis “Amalek” and suggesting that they aren’t Jews.
Amalek was a Biblical tribe that attacked the Israelites from behind while they wandered in the desert. In the Biblical narrative, its members were designated a special evil deserving of extermination.
Referring to the national religious Israelis by the colloquial Hebrew term for “knit kipa” — the preferred headgear for such Jews — Cohen declared in a sermon delivered Saturday night that “as long as there are knit kippot, the [divine] throne is not whole. That’s Amalek. When will the throne be whole? When there is no knit kipa.”
Naftali Bennet, head of the Bayit Yehudi party, home of the National Religious Israelis, was suitably outraged.
“Shame on you,” he wrote on Facebook within an hour of the video’s publication.
“For those who don’t know, Amalek is an expression referring to someone who must be wiped off the face of the earth. No less. At this very moment, thousands of knit-kipa wearers are standing guard from the Syrian border to the Egyptian, from brigade commanders down to the lowliest soldiers, and are spitting blood to defend even the honorable rabbi,” he wrote.
Bennett added: “In these very days, memorial services are being held for my comrades-in-arms who sacrificed their lives in the  Second Lebanon War, some of them secular and others wearers of knit kippot. Some of them fell in ways that earned them medals for valor. The rabbi is calling them, too, Amalek, for God’s sake.”
Bennett bemoaned the fact that Cohen’s words were delivered as he stood next to a seated Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’s spiritual leader, who is viewed by many Sephardi Israelis as the most influential living rabbi.
Bennett has sought in recent weeks to soften what many ultra-Orthodox leaders see as a hardline tone from the current government, which has pursued higher Haredi participation in military and national service and in the workforce. Part of that effort was apparent in his Sunday message as well.
“These days, the Jewish Home [party] is working tirelessly and successfully to lessen the damage to the world of Torah [from government bills forcing Haredi men to work and enlist in the military],” Bennett wrote. “But the Jewish Home, too, is Amalek.”
We Jews have always been our own worst enemies. Unfortunately, we do not lack any enemies on the outside either. Here is a series of incidents as reported by Arutz Sheva in recent days:
Muslim worshippers desecrated the Cave of Machpela in Hevron, the traditional burial site of the 3 Forefathers and 4 Foremothers, and one of Judaism’s holiest shrines:
The Cave (known as Me’arat Hamakhpela in Hebrew) is usually split between Jewish and Muslim worshippers, but this past Friday it was open exclusively to Muslim worshippers in honour of Ramadan.
But when the Jewish section of the site was reopened, worshippers were horrified to find widespread desecration. Two mezuzot - cases containing Jewish holy scriptures affixed to the doorpost – had been torn off and stolen, and a third was damaged. Muslim worshippers had also thrown mud and garbage around the site, and uprooted parts of the garden outside.
Noam Arnon, a spokesperson for Hevron’s Jewish community, called upon the government to take such acts of desecration “at least as seriously as the burning of carpets in a mosque” – a reference to the string of condemnations and promises of a crackdown by authorities against acts of vandalism on mosques by suspected Jewish extremists.
“After a ‘Price Tag’ attack everyone rushes to condemn – the government, Members of Knesset, even the Chief Rabbis – and the police promise to do ‘everything in their power’ to catch those responsible. The people of Hevron are waiting to see if they will react in the same way to this act of desecration.”
Arnon added that such acts were commonplace, particularly during Muslim holidays.
It is a disgrace that this incident has not received wider coverage in the Israeli media. It may sound minor, but it is no less an outrage than any of the “price tag” attacks that are so trumpeted in the media.
A terrorist involved in a massacre of Jews in Hevron is being appointed to manage the Muslim side of the Cave of Machpela:
Taysir Abu Sneina, a terrorist who was involved in the murder of six Jews in Hevron on May 2, 1980, is the man whom the Palestinian Authority has appointed to manage the Muslim side of the Cave of Machpela (known in English as the Cave of the Patriarchs).
The Hatzala Yosh organization reported Sunday that Abu Sneina participated in the terror attack on the building known as Beit Hadassah, on May 2, 1980, in which six students from the Nir Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba were murdered.
The students were making their way home by foot from the Cave of Machpela, after the Sabbath Eve prayers, when Arabs who had been hiding inside neighbouring houses ambushed them and opened fire.
Besides the dead, 16 others were wounded in the attack.
Abu Sneina makes no attempt to hide his terrorist past, and actually seems quite proud of it. His Facebook page proclaims that he is “one of the heroes of the operation at Dabuya,” as the area of Beit Hadassah is known in Arabic. The cover photo of his profile is of the terror squad that carried out the attack, with Abu Sneina’s face circled.
MK Yariv Levin (Likud) called Monday on the government to suspend the arrangements it has agreed upon with the PA regarding the Cave of Machpela until the appointment of Taysir Abu Snena is cancelled.
David Wilder, a spokeman for Hevron’s Jewish community, told Arutz Sheva that the appointment “exposes the true face of the Waqf (the Islamic authority which administers Muslim holy sites in Israel)”:
“Appointing a convicted murderer of six young men and putting him in charge of a holy site in the very place where he committed his crime says a lot about the Waqf - who they are, what they are, and what their tendencies are.
He also expressed his concerns for the safety of Jewish worshippers at the site, and called for Israel to relieve the Waqf of its responsibilities in light of such a decision:
“I think this is very dangerous. This murderer is is today responsibler for a site frequented by 800,000 Jewish visitors each year. How can the Israeli security services cooperate with the Waqf at all after this? Any control the Waqf has over the Cave, or indeed any other place, should be taken from them by Israeli government.”
I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Israeli government to take control if they can’t even exert control in the middle of Jerusalem, at Judaism’s holiest site on the Temple Mount where today, Muslim extremists forced a group of Jewish worshippers off the Mount:
Hundreds of Jews came to the Temple Mount Monday in honor of Tisha B’Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the two Jewish Temples by the Babylonian and Roman empires respectively.
But their visit was cut short as Muslim worshippers physically blocked them and appeared to be preparing a riot.
Michael Fua, of the Jewish Leadership faction of the Israeli Likud Party, was at the Mount.
“Today, on the eve of Tisha B’Av, the Israel Police failed do discharge its duties again,” Fua accused. “Hundreds of Jews who came to the Mount from all parts of the Land of Israel, were kept waiting for a long time at the entrance to the Mount, at the only gate where Jews are allowed to pass, while hundreds of Muslims entered from the other gates without any check or delay.
“As the third group that the police allowed inside entered the Mount, many Muslims began to gather and shout. As usual, instead of preventing the rioters from ascending to the Mount and grouping together, the police quickly informed the Jewish pilgrims that it will not allow them to carry out a full tour of the Mount, and quickly made them leave through the nearest gate.”
Fua, who videotaped the event, explained: “The video shows Dr. Yoel Elitzur and some of the ascenders, faced by the Muslim mob that is familiar to us from the previous days. It s amazing to see how the Israel Police plays into the hands of the Muslim rioters, and actually encourages them to threaten and run amok.
“This scenario is one that is known in advance and it is time that the police change their behavior, so that the scenario may change, too.”
Watch the video at the link.
Yisrael Medad at My Right Word has extensive coverage and several videos of this Muslim anti-Jewish attack and of previous similar attacks. He also explains the background to this extreme anti-Jewish incitement:
The head of the Islamic movement in the Palestinian territories, Sheikh Raed Salah, that there is very serious evidence confirming that crazy hysterical attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque may increase after the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
He said, “Therefore, we say Wake O Muslims and Arabs, the maximum risk increases him as he seeks the help of all of you even win him from Israeli occupation.”
…Said Sheikh Raed Salah, “It has become clear to us that Israel occupation groups stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque, that Israel intelligence is pushing them to do these raids, of course, and the goal is clear: that Israel’s intelligence paid them to commit these raids until cumulative results, after a series of covet incursions will impose a division of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to achieve their coveted black dream which will not be achieved, God willing, which is building the structure of a mythical place on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
You can practically see the drool dripping from his mouth as he spouts his manic words. Read the post and watch the videos if you want to be suitably depressed in “honour” of Tisha Be’Av.
To conclude this rather depressing post I bring you the poetic and profound words of Aharan Pulver in Arutz Sheva, who describes the utter heights of of Jewish national ecstasy at liberating the Kotel and the Temple Mount in 1967, and then the plummet down into the forlorn situation in which we find ourselves today, as described above. In “Squandering Grace” Pulver writes:
Pop began with a whisper, using all his oratorical skills, knowing that soon he would pounce upon his listeners like they were prey, spearing their hearts with a voice like thunder and words like fire. I was transfixed by his words and hypnotized by the silken blue and white flag on the right of the Bimah waving gently in the hot summer breeze pushing through the windows. Fulfilling its intended design, the flag wrapped me like a Tallit within its folds.
That hot summer day was made all the more intense by the emotions evoked. Decorum was forgotten as ties were unknotted, jackets removed, and sleeves rolled up. The women peeking through the lattice work separation feverishly fanned themselves with kerchiefs and cheap oriental paper fans. My father’s voice moved from plaintive to defiant within a brief minute.
Our most holy site freed!
Freed by Jewish heroes of unimaginable courage – inspired, crowned with victory.
Freed! For the all too numerous rivers of blood. For the endless insults suffered and for the countless tears shed. For the pennies they threw at us to see if we would bend down to pick them up, and for picking them up and throwing them back. For surviving.
Freed! For continuing to praise His Name. For millennia of prayer and learning, for untold charity and good deeds. For keeping faith, for the unbroken chain.
Freed! For the defiance and the bravery and the sacrifice.
Freed! For those who came before us and for those to come after. For all the generations, now freed!
Our Rabbi opened the Holy Ark. Everyone stood as one leaning forward as if grasping for the fringes of the unfolding miracle itself. We stood in an intoxicating spiral of time – at one with our paratroopers, pilots, soldiers and sailors, so many of whom gave their lives to do His will, to crown our People with the ultimate victory. Our martyrs and heroic fallen from time immemorial stood among us in the heat of that Bronx shtiebel. I knew it, We all knew it.
But what we did not know was that very day we squandered grace!
The same day we stood in awe in our shtiebel in the Bronx, the same day a sea of Jewish pilgrims flooded Yerushalayim to feel the beat of our now freed heart, the same day Jews around the world gathered in their synagogues and homes to pray for the fallen and give thanks, that same Shabbat, June 17, 1967, then Defense minister Moshe Dayan entered the Al-Aksa Mosque “to talk”.
In an act that defines stupidity, Israel’s then Minister of Defense sat down on the prayer carpet with leaders of the “Supreme Muslim Council” (the Waqf) of what had been Hashemite (Jordanian) occupied Yerushalayim. Dayan had already ordered our flag removed from the Temple Mount on the very afternoon of the Old City’s liberation.
For Dayan, the Holy of Holies was in the fields of Nahalal, Degania and Beit Alpha. Before the shloshim for the fallen he handed our astounded enemies the very victory they had understood to now be lost to them forever. Administrative control over the Temple Mount was to be the sole responsibility of the Waqf! Decades of further humiliation were insured.
On that very day, we squandered grace!
And so it is to this day. Jews are humiliated daily, followed by officials of the Hashemite Wakf who judge their every step and the very movement of their lips and by the Israel Police who are apparently ordered to by our government to enforce draconian measures deemed “necessary to maintain public order”.
Fact: Jews are not permitted to pray, in any manner or form, even in a murmur.
Fact: Jews are not permitted to carry prayer books or any books of a religious nature.
Fact: Jews are not permitted to bow or prostrate themselves.
Fact: Jews are not permitted access throughout the day
Fact: Jews are not permitted to study text.
Fact: Jews are not permitted to linger.
Jews are not even permitted to use toilet facilities controlled by the Muslim Wakf. For those who dare to exercise their civil and religious rights as guaranteed by the Israel Supreme Court and the K’nesset and murmur a prayer their lot is verbal abuse, physical violence, detention, arrest!
In Hevron, in the Cave of the Machpela, at the graves of our forefathers and mothers, we were relegated for centuries to the humiliation of non-access, the physical proximity of Jews limited to a very real seventh step of a staircase leading to a side entrance.
As we are duty bound to safeguard the civil and religious rights of minorities we are no less obligated to insure our own civil and religious rights. As we are duty bound to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who fell for our freedom and national liberation we are no less obligated to confront past mistakes and make them right in order to truly honor their sacrifice and memory!
And we are duty bound never again to squander grace.
May this Tisha Be’Av be the last one that we ever need to fast. May the next 9th of Av be a day of rejoicing and celebration with the coming of the Mashiach and rebuilding of the Temple. Amen.
כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בשמחתה
Those who mourn Jerusalem will merit to see her in her joy