Why does Israel continue to Observe Tisha b’Av?
Tisha b’Av is a Jewish fast day that has been commemorated annually on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. by Jews wherever they lived, for over two thousand years.
It commemorates the destruction of the two Jewish temples built in Jerusalem. The first temple, Solomon’s Temple, destroyed in 423 BC by the Babylonians, and the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 Ad. Both events symbolized the end of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel in those times, and both entailed exile of the Jewish people from their native land.
Today happens to be Tisha B’Av, and while I usually commemorate this day outside of the modern State of Israel, this year, I am fortunate to be spending it in Jerusalem.
I can tell you that this is no minor fast. It is a full day of fasting and prayer, with many institutions sponsoring talks and film screenings relevant to the theme of the destruction of the temple and the exile of the Jewish people.
Why do we continue to observe this National Day of Mourning?
One answer from the religious community – the community that regulates these religious rituals – is that although we now have political sovereignty, we have not yet achieved spiritual freedom in which all people respect each other and work together for the common good.
In Jerusalem, on Tish b’Av, I participated in a film festival called “The Earth Trembles.” Contemporary Israeli films on contemporary social and political subjects are screened in the producers’ and actors’ presence.
The strength of the Jewish people is its capacity to remember, not to forget, and to learn from the past. Education for all, starting at birth, is a massive part of the Jewish endeavour.
We continue to observe the fast of T’isha b’Av because we have so much to learn from the past heroes and villains.