Tisha B’Av is considered one of the most solemn days in the Jewish Year second only to Yom Kippur. This day filled with fasting, mourning and the occasional protest found a moment of hope this year. Tisha B’Av is the traditional memorial day for the destruction of both of the temples as well as 6 other historically detrimental events that happened in Jewish history. In Israel, kosher restaurants shut down for 25 hours, many people take off work, and the religious community spends the day praying and mourning.
Traditionally the book of Lamentations is read through the night before the fast. At the end of the book is this passage: “The crown is fallen from our head: Woe unto us! For we have sinned. For this our heart is faint. For these things our eyes are dim; for the mountain of Zion, which is desolate. The foxes walk upon it. Thou, O LORD art enthroned for ever. Thy throne is from generation to generation. Wherefore dost Thou forget us for ever. And forsake us so long time? Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD and we shall be turned: Renew our days as of old.” Lamentations 5:16-21
Just 5 days before the start of Tisha B’Av, an amazing site was seen on the steps near the Kotel (Western Wall). A group of foxes playing atop the ruined walls.
Multiple rabbis who saw the sight were overjoyed at this fulfillment of prophecy and believe that if this is coming to pass, so shall the promises of the restoration of the temple found throughout the book of Zechariah. Perhaps it was this vision of hope that led more than 1700 Jewish worshipers to ascend to the temple mount on Sunday morning.
Originally the site was to be closed to Jews as the date coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The 80,000 Muslim worshipers clashed with Israeli police forces as they entered the mount ahead of Jewish civilians. Injuries were reported on both sides, and Jewish worshipers were allowed only two hours on the site.
Despite the tension and the violence, one cannot help but notice how this day in many ways seems to have reversed itself from the traditional definition. What is commemorated as the day of the destruction of the temples is now beginning to be looked at as a day for hope. Israelis look to the present and the future, and toward rebuilding what has been torn down – rather than looking only at the history of suffering.
“For I will turn their mourning into joy, and I will comfort them, and make them rejoice out of their sorrow” Jeremiah 31:12