Monday, August 4, 2014

Two Israels on Tisha B’Av

While Israel’s Orthodox community plunges into mourning tonight and tomorrow for the Jewish fast day of the 9th of Av, the country’s secular majority doesn’t relate to what’s seen as an irrelevant, vestigial commemoration.

By Don Futterman for Haaretz

Two Israels on Tisha B’AvTisha B’Av, like every other issue in Israel, has taken a back seat to the fighting in Gaza. This year it is colored by our sadness over the personal hurban, or devastation, for the families of soldiers and civilians killed in our war with Hamas. But most years, the secular public and Orthodox and traditional Israeli Jews live in parallel universes for the three-week period of semi-mourning leading from the 17th of Tammuz, 70 CE when the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem, to the 9th of Av, when both the first (in 587 BCE) and second Temples (in 70 CE) were destroyed.

In the Orthodox world, the 9th of Av, or Tisha B’Av, is not just another historical commemoration; its remembrance takes significant form in terms of everyday life. Religious radio stations and the weekly Shabbat newsletters distributed at synagogues debate the destruction and reconstruction of the Temple, the meaning of the three weeks, the nine days, and the Ninth of Av itself. Eating meat is forsaken during the last nine days, except on Shabbat, and music is avoided for the entire three weeks since both are considered signs of celebration. No weddings are scheduled, and men don’t shave, one of Judaism’s more visible mourning customs, and will continue to refrain for an extra 15 hours past Tisha B’Av, because the Temple burned until noon of the day after its destruction. Kinot – prayers of lamentation written over the centuries - are included in the daily service.

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