The fast of Tisha Be’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, began tonight and will end tomorrow night at sundown. It 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.
We can add to this sad list the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif – otherwise known as the ill-conceived and ill-fated “Disengagement from Gaza”, which was called to begin on Tisha B’Av 2005 (deferred to the following day) and which brought in its wake the rise of Hamas with all its concomitant crises and wars.
You can read a chronology of the major events leading up to the Churban (the destruction of the Temples and Jerusalem) at the link.
This evening Jews around the world gathered in their synagogues, or at the Kotel in Jerusalem, sitting on the floor in a sign of mourning, and listened to Megillat Eicha (the Book of Lamentations) read out in a mournful tune. Very often I have trouble connecting with the words of the Prophet Jeremiah’s lament. His descriptions of Jerusalem in ruins, with the people of Israel massacred or carried off into captivity by the Babylonians, simply do not chime with the reality that we see before us: a modern, thriving, bustling society, with an advanced economy, world-class institutions of education, science and medicine, cultural activities to suit all tastes, and an incoming of the Exiles that our prophets could only dream about.
But this year I found Jeremiah’s words resonated very clearly with me. From the absurd but dangerously biased rewriting of history at the hands of UNESCO, at the behest of the Palestinians, – which essentially writes the Jews out of their own history – to the terror attack on the Temple Mount with the ensuing debacle of Israel’s perfectly reasonable response – the installation of metal detectors; closely followed by the murderous butchering of the Salomon family in Halamish by another Palestinian terrorist; and then the world’s condemnation of Israel’s self-defensive response; moving on to the terror attack at the Israeli Embassy in Jordan, and then Jordan’s accusation of Israel of violating human rights while it itself violated all norms of diplomatic convention… all these together show that we are not yet truly sovereign in our own land. Is it because the time is not right? Or because we have not yet elected suitable leaders? Is it because of our own behaviour? Our blindness to our own morals or to the world around us?
As we say in our Tisha B’Av prayers:
על כן ציון במר תבכה וירושלים תתן קולה
Because of all this Zion weeps bitterly and Jerusalem lifts up her voice.
It could be any one or combination of all of those. But for the present, we do not have full sovereignty in our capital city, no matter that Gen. Motta Gur famously declared, on the liberation of Jerusalem in the six Day War “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”. The Tempe Mount is most definitely not in our hands! Not when we capitulate to murderers and let them decide who will ascend and who will not; who will be allowed to pray and who will not. Not when we accede to demands from an ostensible peace partner (Jordan) who holds our diplomats hostage until we remove the security measures that we put in place in order to prevent further terror attacks.
So what is the solution? Here is some food for thought from some bloggers I admire.
Abu Yehuda suggest: “What works”
So what works for us? First of all, a fundamental change in our point of view: stop treating them as another people more or less like us, with whom we must find a way to coexist. Coexistence is impossible. It’s not up to us; that is who they are. All we can do is win or lose.
What works is to see them as an implacable enemy that must be defeated by any means necessary.
We read a similar message of stern encouragement from Inspiration from Zion: “What victory looks like“. Following a report of the Palestinians’ jubilant celebrations after Israel retreated from its security measures on the Temple Mount, Forest Rain then describes the desperate battle for life that Elad Salomon Hy’d fought to save his wife and children. She writes:
For Elad, winning meant that his wife and children would live to see another day.
This is Israel. We who are sometimes called the Eternal Nation are not afraid of the long route. We are not afraid of pain and suffering. If that is what it takes to achieve victory, we can “take it”.
As long as, in the end, we win.
Victory is not a temporary win. It is clear, unequivocal, with no room for “alternative” explanations. I know what victory looks like and when it happens, so will everyone else.
I don’t want to “live to fight another day.” I want victory.
Do you dare dream of victory? If you dare dream it, you can make it real.
But I would like to close with some words of comfort from Sherri Oz at Israel Diaries: “The Arabs should have victories like this every day!” who gives us a different perspective from her friend Yosef Hartuv in Kiryat Arba who describes what happened when the Temple Mount was reopened and the Muslims deigned to return to pray there last week – accompanied by rioting of course:
… you can get 8 or 10 or maybe 20 border police up on a roof and when those rimonim come flying – even though they’re only rimonei helem (stun grenades) . . . when they start, you just want to leave!The Arabs were running into the alleyways, I mean they weren’t stopping to throw stuff back — they were getting out of there and so here you are: “We won! We’re the victors”. And you watch tens of thousands of them running away and trying to get out of there as quick as possible.
So, for me, when I look at that, I kind-of laugh . . . and the fact of the matter is, this is the return to the status quo: they used to riot, and the border police would chase them off.
… When you see all his friends running away as fast as their two little legs can carry them. Even running from shock grenades. Granted, they make a horrible noise, but they don’t injure you. I cannot look at a scene like that and claim great victories for them. Granted that I really wish we didn’t have to do this every time this kind of thing comes up, but still . . . They should have victories like this every day . . . victories where we run them off in a matter of minutes, tens of thousands of them.
And, of course the Palestinian flag was taken down to complete the return to the status quo.
Oh wait! One more thing! Men under the age of 50 were not allowed onto Har HaBayit today for prayers for security reasons. Impressive victory, guys!
May those hopeful words be the harbinger of our full redemption, and may we see the Temple rebuilt speedily in our days.