Since the 9th day of Av fell yesterday, on Shabbat when we do not mourn, the fast itself was deferred to today, beginning last night at sundown and finishing at sundown tonight. Tisha Be’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. 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.
You can read a chronology of the major events leading up to the Churban (the destruction of the Temples and Jerusalem) at the link.
We might think that with the establishment of the State of Israel in modern times, and seeing the country thrive and overcome such adversity, there would be no need for Tisha B’Av any more. However as we can see from some recent headlines, although the Jews have technically regained their sovereignty in the Land of Israel, that sovereignty is persistently challenged by both our traditional enemies (the Arabs) and by new-old enemies – some European countries, countless NGOs and the hard left in general.
The most recent challenge which is dominating the headlines is over the town of Susiya. In fact this issue is but a continuation of the same chutzpah-dik meddling in our domestic affairs that I wrote about exactly a year ago – last Tisha B’Av to be precise. The issue remains the battle by the Israeli government to destroy illegal Arab structures in Susiya – structures which in many cases have been funded by foreign governments and NGO’s. Arlene Kushner summarizes the situation well here, expressing the utter outrage that we feel at this audacious foreign meddling in our domestic affairs. (see my next post going up at 4:00 this afternoon which discusses the fake history of the Arabs in Israel).
The background, briefly:
In the Hebron Hills of Judea there are the remains of an ancient Jewish city known as Susiya, which flourished in the Talmudic era. It is estimated that about 3,000 people – all Jews, observing a religious life – lived there at its height. Archeological remains, including a synagogue, that have been excavated can be visited today.
Still retained within the synagogue is an ancient mosaic floor:
Not far from this archeological site, there is a modern Jewish town of Susiya.
But within the area of the archeological remains there is also an Arab squatters’ village. It consists today of some 60+ constructions of concrete, tin and canvas. They call this village Susiya as well. And those squatting on the land claim that their village has been there for a very long time.
The facts tell a very different story:
There is no evidence of an old Arab village there. Aerial photos indicate that with the exception of four building constructed in the 90s, there was nothing on the site until after 2000. In fact, when the surveys conducted by the British mandatory powers in 1945 – which mention all of the villages in the area – are examined, no mention of a village named Susiya is found.
Most of the buildings went up between 2011 and 2013 in defiance of a court order forbidding the building.
Now here it gets really interesting:
When the population registry of the Civil Administration was examined, it was found that most of the people claiming to live in Susiya had homes in the nearby town of Yatta (which is in Area A under PA jurisdiction).
What we are in fact seeing here is a land grab by the Palestinian Arab Nawajah family of Yatta, which has built illegally and in blatant violation of Israeli court orders.
Two facts must be emphasized. One is that this matter has been thoroughly adjudicated. … The courts determined that … they had been operating in contempt of court, and that the buildings that had been erected must be demolished. …
And then, even though these were squatters without legal rights to the land, an offer was made to them regarding an allocation of land, in area C beyond the archeological site, near Yatta, to which they might move. But they refused and applied for legalization of their current site – which was rejected by the Court. Aside from everything else, a village was not about to be legalized in a designated archeological area, which requires protection.
Further details can be seen here: http://regavim.org/susiya_facts/
After multiple delays, the time now draws near for the demolition of many of the structures in illegal Arab Susiya. It was last month that the Court ruled on this yet again.
But nothing is ever simple here in Israel, where the Western world seems to think it has a right to a say about everything we do. This is the outrage: that others think they can tell a sovereign state that operates according to the rule of law what to do. The interference is breathtakingly offensive. We are forced to wonder if they would imagine interfering in the internal affairs of any other state in this fashion.
The imminent demolition of buildings in Arab Susiya has become a cause célèbre in left wing circles. “Susiya 4ever!” they say, as if this is some noble cause.
Even a Senator – Dianne Feinstein – imagined she had a right to say something about what Israel was doing. And several NGOs have been involved.
Rabbis for Human Rights has now actually approached the High Court and asked that the demolition orders be shelved.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will be going to the Court on Monday to present the State’s case on this. …
But the pressure on our government is unreal. With all of the hullabaloo, the worst that has happened in recent days is that the State Department has weighed in. On July 16th, State Department spokesman John Kirby let it be known that the US was “closely following developments.”
We need them to monitor what we are doing? There is a warning implicit in this.
At a press briefing he said (emphasis added):
“We strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village. Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes, would be harmful and provocative…”
Elsewhere it has been reported that the US is putting great pressure on Israel with regard to this matter, and has indicated that if the demolition proceeds “the US response would be extremely severe.”
It is the US’s unhinged response that is provocative. Do they now consider us an enemy against whom “their response would be extremely severe”? Are they going to send a fleet of B52 bombers to attack us? Are there no worse problems around the world, or even just in the Middle East, which exercise them more greatly than a few illegally constructed shacks in Israel? Looking at America from here, they’ve “lost it” completely.
There are contact details for the relevant Israeli authorities at Arlene’s link where you can register your protest at this blatant foreign interference in our affairs. This must not be tolerated by us and would not be tolerated by any other country.
Yet more foreign interference was on display this week as France fumed over Israel’s razing of illegal structures erected by France and other EU countries outside Jerusalem:
France on Thursday condemned Israel over last week’s demolition of several structures, funded by the French government, in a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem.
France condemns the Israeli army’s destruction of several structures funded by France in the Palestinian village of Nabi Samuel (West Bank) on August 3,” the French government said in a statement.
“This is the third time that buildings funded through French humanitarian aid have been demolished or confiscated by Israeli authorities since the beginning of 2016, and notably follows the dismantling of a school in February.”
Paris also joined the US in denouncing the razing of three European Union-funded shelters in the West Bank on Tuesday, which it said constituted “a violation of international law.
“With several other EU projects destroyed south of Hebron, France expresses its deep concern over the accelerating rate of these demolitions and confiscations of humanitarian structures built for the Palestinian people in Area C,” it said. “We call on the Israeli authorities to end these operations, which are a violation of international law.”
I am pretty sure that international law says nothing about a country destroying illegally built structures in its territory, or on territory that it controls.
Tuesday’s demolitions of the three shelters and two other structures took place in the Palestinian village of Umm al-Khair, a small Bedouin village near the Israeli settlement of Carmel in the South Hebron Hills. It is in Area C of the West Bank, which is entirely under Israeli military control.
Maybe the French and the Europeans ought to reconsider their nasty habit of constructing illegal housing in Israeli territory. Just imagine the outrage if Israel went around building in other countries without permits.
Oh, yeah, the Americans also had to get into the condemnation act:
The US State Department on Tuesday said it was “troubled” by Israel’s “provocative” demolitions, saying it “raises serious questions” about the Jewish state’s commitment to peace.
The State Department’s remarks are breathtaking in their galling hypocrisy. How dare they accuse Israel of being provocative when it removes illegal structures?? How dare they question Israel’s commitment to peace? Has Israel not gone the extra mile and given up land and thrown their own people out of their homes, all in the name of peace? How many more Israelis have to die before the State Department is satisfied that the Jews really do want peace? Have the State Department ever called Palestinian terror attacks provocative? Have they ever questioned the Palestinians commitment to peace after seeing their anti-Jewish incitement? Or is it only Israelis that are not committed to peace? And only Israelis who are expected to tolerate illegal structures? (Answers on a very small postcard please).
Yet with all that, even with the treatment of Israel as a pesky vassal state, or as a rogue pariah state, even with the terrorism and the delegitimization and antisemitism and the enormous looming threat of Iran… with all that, Israel, the Jews and Jerusalem are at the highest, most populous, most spiritual, most prosperous and possibly the safest level that we have been in almost 2,000 years – since the days of the Destruction. So why are we fasting at all? Shouldn’t we be celebrating?
A Jerusalem Post editorial asks that exact question, challenging our tradition of mourning:
Walking around Jerusalem today one is struck by the beauty of the city, the bustling crowds that populate its streets, its liveliness. What does this Jerusalem have in common with the desolate city described in the Book of Lamentations and in Tisha Be’av liturgy? Never before in history have so many Jews lived in Jerusalem.
Never before have Jewish sovereignty and political autonomy been so complete and vigorous. Never before have the Jewish people’s military might and political alliances afforded so much security.
Economically, the State of Israel is dynamic and full of promise. Its hi-tech sector is world-renowned. Its standard of living places Israel on par with other developed Western countries. And unlike other Western countries, Israel’s population is growing briskly.
Walking the streets of Europe, one is struck by the dearth of children and teenagers. Negative population growth has become the norm, seeming to reflect a general lack of optimism and unwillingness to invest in the future. Israel, in contrast, has a thriving younger generation. Families are larger than any other Western nation, reflecting the Jewish state’s vitality.
The article suggests that maybe we shouldn’t be expecting the Temple to be physically rebuilt. Personally I reject that idea, though I can understand people who cling to it. The writer posits that the fast day can be a day of mourning for all of society’s ills and social inequalities, whether in Israel or abroad.
Again, I don’t like this idea of “universalism”, where Jewish traditions are diluted to include every ethnicity and every wrong. Tisha B’Av is a Jewish day of mourning, not an international one. Nevertheless, the concluding paragraph gives us food (oops, fasting) for thought:
Tisha Be’av is at one and the same time a day of celebration as well as a day of mourning. It is anachronistic to commemorate Jerusalem’s physical destruction, when we should be celebrating its resurgence. However, we must also strive to right the many wrongs that continue to plague the world and Israeli society and acknowledge that the task of rebuilding Jerusalem is not yet over.
A similar message, but more in tune with my own religious outlook, is provided in this inspiring and timely Aish video, which both fills us with hope, yet reminds us why we still have to fast:
Indeed, we still pray that 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