Tisha Be’av- A Jewish day of mourning and an inter-generational lifeline

A Jewish legend tells the story of Napoleon’s visit to the holy land. One night, on Tisha Be’av, as he was walking through the streets of a Jewish neighborhood, he saw Jews sitting on the ground, their clothes ripped, and crying. Napoleon was curious as to what had befallen the Jews, so he asked one of them what had happened. The Jew answered that their temple had been destroyed. Napoleon was outraged. “How was I not notified of this?” he demanded. When the Jew told him that the terrible event had taken place over 1700 years before, Napoleon was even more astounded and declared that a people who can remember their disasters for such a long time and continue to feel such remorse over them is surely destined to be great and will never be truly defeated.

 Tisha Be’av (literally, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av) is the day on which we commemorate the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples, which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The first Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian empire in 586 BCE. The second Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE, following which the Jewish people went into a 1878 year-long Diaspora (and roughly half of the world’s Jews still live in the Diaspora today).

The Arch of Titus in Rome depicts the defeat of the Jews and the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. Photo: Wikipedia

For almost 2000 years Jews prayed daily to return to Jerusalem. Every year, on the 9th of Av, Jews fast and mourn the destruction. The three weeks leading up to the 9th of Av are also considered days of mourning, and observant Jews do not get married, shave, listen to music and do other enjoyable activities during this period. It is customary in Jewish homes to leave a small patch on one of the walls unpainted, in memory of the destruction. At every Jewish wedding, to this day, it is customary for the groom to break a glass cup at the end of the ceremony, symbolizing the fact that their joy is not complete because we have not yet returned to Jerusalem, while reciting the words of King David in Psalms 137:

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not;
if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.”

 Jews began returning to the holy land in large numbers in the 1880s, the state of Israel was founded in 1948 and Jerusalem was finally liberated in 1967 from Jordan, but the Temple was never rebuilt.

Painting of the First Temple, built by King Solomon, based on the Biblical description. Photo: Wikipedia.

 When I visited the US last October, there was a documentary showing on TV about the Jewish temple. The documentary basically claimed that the Jews plan to rebuild their temple sometime in the near future at the site where it once stood, while destroying the Al-Aqsa mosque that currently stands there, thus inciting world war III.

 These claims are mostly BS, and I shall explain why.

Many Jews, especially Religious Zionists believe that the Jewish return to the land of Israel and the foundation of the state of Israel are part of a divine plan, which shall culminate with the coming of the Jewish Messiah. A final stage of this process will be the rebuilding of the Temple on the Temple Mount, instead of the Al-Aqsa mosque which was built there precisely to make the building of the Temple harder for the Jews (situating mosques in order to gain control of an area was historically a common practice of Islam in its early years. Muslims believe that the Temple Mount is the site from which Mohammed ascended to the heavens on his divine horse, Al-Buraq, however Jerusalem is not mentioned by name anywhere in the Quraan. While Jews worldwide pray facing Jerusalem, many Muslims have their backs to Jerusalem when praying towards Mecca in Saudi Arabia).

 Any Jewish believer entering the square in front of the Kotel- the Wailing Wall, the only remaining remnant of the ancient Temple Mount, feels a twinge of sadness at seeing the golden dome of the mosque standing where the Jewish Temple used to be. To make things worse, the Islamic Waqf (trust) that runs the mosque has been systematically destroying archaeological evidence of the existence of the two Temples for years. Despite Israel’s claims about the existence of complete freedom of worship for members of all religions in Israel, there is one religion who cannot pray at its holiest site- the Jews. Jews are allowed to enter the Temple Mount only with permission from the Waqf, with police and Waqf supervision, in small numbers (less than 10 men, the required number for conducting prayers in Judaism), and without prayer books. Jews who enter the Temple Mount and are caught moving their lips in silent prayer are thrown out.

The Kotel, also known as the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall. It is the closest that Jews are able to come to their holiest site. The Kotel was the western supporting wall for the temple mount, which is adorned today by the golden-domed Al-Aqsa mosque. Photo: Wikipedia.

And yet the Jewish State makes no move to rebuild its Temple. Why is that?

The fact is that a building can always be rebuilt. But one must ask, what makes a building “The Temple”? Surely it’s not the breathtaking architecture, the sacrifice of animals (according to many prominent Rabbis, particularly Maimonides who lived in the 12th century, there will be no animal sacrifices in the third Temple), its location, or even the conducting of prayers. There are hundreds of Synagogues in Jerusalem, some of them quite breathtaking, but none of them are “The Temple”.

Model of the Second Temple. The support wall on the far side of the model is the modern-day Kotel. Photo: Wikipedia.

A building is just a building. For it to be THE Jewish Temple, it has to be filled with spiritual content. The Jewish Temple is supposed to be a beacon of peace to all humankind and a spiritual center for the Jewish people. And we still have a long way to go till we get there.

 So when the Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple, they are not mourning the fact that a magnificent building was destroyed. We are mourning the loss of the original Jewish State 2598 years ago, and again 1942 years ago. We are mourning the destruction of the Jewish Capital, Jerusalem. We are mourning the hardship that we have endured since the loss of the First temple under the whips of the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Muslims, the Inquisition, the Cossacks and the Nazis. And above all we are mourning the loss of a spiritual level that we have not been able to regain.

Jews mourning and praying at the Kotel, tonight, July 29th 2012, 01:33 AM. Photo: Screenshot from live webcam feed on http://www.thekotel.org/cameras.asp.

And in sharp contrast- this week’s headlines:

 The Kadima party is going through its death throes

After quitting the Coalition, the largest party in the Knesset is disintegrating. The party is expected to lose 20+ of its 28 current seats in the Knesset in the next election. In the meantime, the party members are all scrambling to get off the sinking ship.

 There have been at least two attempts to gather the 25% of the party representatives  necessary in order to split off from the party and form a second faction. One group attempted to leave the party and join the ruling party, Likud, but was one member short. Another group is planning to split off to the left (and possibly join the Labor party) if they can gather the required seven members. Meanwhile, one member, Tzahi Hanegbi has already declared that he has returned to the Likud party (Kadima is made up, for the most part, of ex-Likud and ex-Labor members).

The BBC does not recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel- A fitting headline for Tisha Be’av

A Facebook campaign has been fruitlessly calling on the BBC to amend its website, where it has blatantly refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. The website contains a special profile for every country and non-country entity participating in the 2012 London Olympic Games. While the Palestinian Authority had East Jerusalem listed as its capital (in reality, the Palestinian government resides in Ramallah),  the Israeli profile at first had no capital city listed, and was later changed so that Jerusalem was listed as the “Seat of Government (However most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv)”, following complaints. So far, the BBC has refused to rectify the situation and accept Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital city, even though it has been the Jewish Capital for over 3000 years.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian page has been changed to cite East Jerusalem as the “Intended seat of government”.

 The Facebook page on the issue can be found here.

The culprit BBC page on Israel can be found here.

The Palestinian page can be found here.

 Taxes and protest

In a surprise move, the rightwing government, which has so far attempted to lower taxes, declared that taxes would be raised on cigarettes and alcohol and that the value-added tax (a form of consumption tax) would be raised back to 17% after the government had lowered it to 16% at the beginning of 2010.

This move has unsurprisingly been received with outrage by the social protesters, who claim that raising the value-added tax and tax on alcohol and cigarettes will affect the middle classes the most.

Meanwhile, the act of self-immolation carried out by Moshe Silman at the social protest two weeks ago has sparked a rash of copycats. Ever since Silman, who died of his wounds last week, became a sad mascot of the social protest, there have been almost daily occurrences of unfortunates attempting self-immolation in protest of their own neglect by welfare authorities.

Have any questions or comments about this post? Please feel free to leave a comment!


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  1. […] Mitt decided to visit Israel on Tisha Be’av- A Jewish day of mourning and an inter-generational lifeline. […]

  2. […] written here before about the meaning of the Jewish Temple. The Temple was destroyed because it had become an empty […]

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