Why does the State of Israel observe the Jewish national day of mourning called Tisha’bAv every year?

Why does the State of Israel and the Jewish people all over the world, continue to observe the National Day of Mourning Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the two temples and the Jewish peoples’ two  previous exiles from the land of Israel, when we now have a sovereign Jewish State in the land of Israel? Today happens to be Tisha B’Av, (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) and while normally I commemrate this day outside of the modern State of Israel, this year I am fortunate to be spending it in Jerusalem, Israel. In fact, I can tell you that this is no minor holiday,either in the diaspora or in Israel. Traditionally, the day decrees a full day of fasting and prayer that Jews have observed since the destruction of the First Temple (2500 years). In Israel and increasingly in the diaspora as well, there are not only synagogue rituals and readings but also public gatherings in synagogues, in Jewish institutions and parks, including talks and film screenings relevant to the subject. In Jerusalem, a film festival was dedicated to this theme at Beit Avichai in Jerusalem which I attended called “The Earth Trembles”. Contemporary Israeli films on contemporary social and political subjects were screened in the presenceof the producers and actors.

Recently Mahmoud Abbas made a speech announcing to the world that Israel has no indigenous rights in the Middle East, his Palestinian version of reality is based on a premise of left wing ideology, namely, that Jews in Israel have been and are part of a pattern of “settler colonialism”.  

  • Abbas: “The Egyptian thinker Abd al-Wahab al-Masri described the Zionist entity in this way: ‘The goal of Israel’s creation is to establish a colonial state that has no connection to Judaism’ – that is, it exploits the Jews to its end.”

Why is this significant? I quote from the article Palestinian Settler-Colonialism published by the Besa Center. 

  • One of the mainstays of the modern university is the idea of settler-colonialism. This argues that certain societies are birthed by settlers implanted in a foreign territory, either directly by or with the consent of an imperial power. These colonists then dominate and eradicate the indigenous population.  They develop bellicose cultures that eliminate the natives from historical, literary, and other narratives. Primary examples often cited are the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and Israel.
  • Among the many concepts abused and perverted by the Palestinians, such as “settler clonialism”, “apartheid” accusations of Israeli “genocide” rank the highest for blatant audacity, and for twinned calumny and odiousness.

The observance of Tisha b’Av, a Jewish day of mourning or the last 2500 years is an elegant rebuttal to this argument. the second destruction of the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem, occurred in 70 AD, 500 years before the birth of Mohammad and 2000 years before the modern university idea of “settler colonialism” was argued.

Ben Gurion the pioneer settler and first Prime Minister of the State of Israel that was declared following the UN vote regarding the establishment of the State of israel  expresses these ideas elegantly.

  • Ben-Gurion: “From a Jewish standpoint Zionism is not just a flight from persecution and restrictive laws, but primarily love of a homeland and a vision of the rise of a nation-state. Our Zionism is composed of a national ideology, a feeling of love for the land, an aspiration to political independence. And of a desire and a need to settle in the Land of Israel. Take away from Zionism the hundreds-years-long love for the ancestral homeland, take away from Zionism the political aspiration to independence – and Zionism is emptied of its content” (Bama’archa, vol. 2, p. 48).
  • Ben-Gurion: “Our right to the Land of Israel does not stem from the Mandate and the Balfour Declaration. It precedes those. The Bible is our mandate… I can state in the name of the Jewish People: The Bible is our mandate, the Bible that was written by us in our Hebrew language, and in this land itself, is our mandate. Our historical right has existed since our beginnings as the Jewish People, and the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate recognize and confirm that right” (testimony to the Peel Royal Commission, January 1937, Bama’archa, vol. 1, pp. 77-78).
  • “A homeland is not given as a gift and is not acquired by means of political rights and contracts. It is not purchased with gold and is not conquered by force, but is built with sweat. This homeland is a historical creation and a collective endeavor of a people, the fruit of its physical, spiritual, and moral labor down through the generations. … The Land of Israel will be ours not when the Turks, the English, or the next peace conference agrees to it, and it is undersigned in a diplomatic treaty – but when we, the Jews, build it. We will not attain the real, true, and lasting right to the land from others, but from our labor. For the Land of Israel to be ours, we must build it; the mission of our revival movement is the building of the land” (New York, September 1915, Mema’amad Le’am, p. 10).
Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, citizen of the world