The world is always a very dangerous place. Innocent people are suffering and dying at the hands of violent thugs wherever you look, from Syria and Iraq to Nigeria and Mexico. Most of us feel helpless to stop it. Even with a strong Israel to defend the Jewish people, there’s uncertainty about the outcome of Israel’s situation with Hamas, mounting pressure from the US and the UN, and the global rise in anti-Semitism cloaked as anti-Zionism. These would be valid concerns at any time, but today feels a bit more ominous because of the timing.
Historically, this time of the year is a period of danger, mourning and refrain for the Jewish People known as the “Nine Days.” These days commemorate the sorrowful final lead up to the Ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av), a date of historical infamy on which numerous tragedies befell the Jewish People. It is said that both the First and Second Holy Temples were sacked on that date. Among other tragedies to fall on this date, the Bar Kochba Revolt was brutally crushed by the Romans, the Jews were expelled from England in 1290, and again from Spain in 1492. Additionally, World War I, which led directly to World War II and the Holocaust, began on that day. Most chillingly perhaps, it was also the day that the Nazis formally approved “The Final Solution.” Sadly, Tisha B’Av has a way of making itself dreadfully relevant for the Jewish nation [and the world].
As an aside, it may be of some interest that Israel’s unilateral disengagement, or self-extrication from Gaza, was delayed in 2005 so as not to coincide with the Nine Days and instead began on the 10th of Av. Yet this date too is meaningful as, while the Temple was set ablaze on the 9th, it burned for two days and Jews therefore refrain from certain comforts on the 10th as well. In fact, the entire month of Av is considered bad luck in Jewish tradition. Considering the current fallout and looking back, setting the timing of disengagement to coincide with such a period of bad luck is just a bit unsettling. Whatever side of the political fence you’re on, it is clear that Israel’s Gaza disengagement facilitated the conditions that led directly to the current fighting, suffering and deaths of far too many people today.
This year, the lead up to Tisha B’Av is an especially difficult time for those mourning Israel’s fallen and those in Israel living under constant threat. This year, the sorrow is not a distant collective memory. We don’t need a reminder to mourn because our mourning is fresh, our uncertainty is real and the atmosphere around us truly matches that of the Nine Days. But Tisha B’Av is less than a week away and with it has sometimes come new misfortune. But I choose to be optimistic about the future.
It is said that the last Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred that tore apart the Jewish People within their homeland. Today, I see quite the opposite. I see strong unity and positivity among Jews when it comes to their love and defense of each other and of their homeland. As individuals and as a nation, when we choose to be positive, work together, and hope and pray that goodness will prevail, we are all stronger, even during tough times. Let us hope that we have seen the worst and that things get better from here. Let us hope that the current unity of Israel and the Jewish people continues to lead to positivity, strength and peace, not just for Israel, but for people all around the world. With less than a week left until Tisha B’Av, let us pray that we never have to add another catastrophic event to the infamous 9th of Av list.
Am Yisrael Chai!
Israeli Flag Star of David pendant.