Elkan’s View from Netanya


On Saturday night and Sunday we will observe the fast of Tisha B’Av which this year actually falls on Shabbat. Since the only fast observed on Shabbat is Yom Kippur, “the Sabbath of Sabbaths” as it is described in the Torah, Ninth Av is ”nidche – pushed forward” to Sunday 10th Av. On Saturday night we read “Megillat Eichah – the Book of Lamentations” which tells of the capture and sack of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Disturbingly, many of its details have echoes in the Holocaust.

On Saturday night restaurants and cafes in Israel are closed, and it is a strange and slightly eerie experience to go through streets that are normally thronged with people, but are echoingly empty.

Originally the fast marked the anniversary of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, which by ghastly coincidence occurred on the same day. The inability of the Jewish people to offer up sacrifices, and the growth of a Jewish Diaspora with the consequent difficulty of travelling to Jerusalem, required a non-sacrificial style of service and led to the development of the synagogue. It is only in our day, with the growth of mass air travel, that it is again possible for Jews from all over the world to regularly spend Chagim in the land of Israel.

Tisha B’Av continued to be a day of disasters for our people. The expulsion from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492 both happened on this day, as did the outbreak of the First World War. We commemorate also many of the other disasters that have befallen our people, and there are two moving Kinot – Poems of Lamentation, which describe the massacre at York in 1190. The author of one of them clearly knew many of the people involved and describes them by name.

Tisha B’Av commemorates the disasters of our history, but the Jewish people has always survived with hope, and there is a deep belief that one day the fast will become a festival of joy.