Large number of Israelis fast on Tisha Be'av, poll finds

The findings come from a new study by Professor Camil Fuchs for the Jewish People Policy Institute and was published ahead of Tisha Be’Av which falls on Saturday night and Sunday.

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July 21, 2018 19:23
2 minute read.
The western wall male side on Tisha B'av, 2018

The western wall male side on Tisha B'av, 2018. (photo credit: THE WESTERN WALL HERITAGE FOUNDATION)

 
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More than one third of Jewish Israelis, some 36%, say they fast for the entire day on Tisha Be’av, which commemorates the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies of Jewish history.

In addition, approximately 4% of Israeli Jews, some 250,000 people, say they visit the Western Wall, one of the remnants of the Second Temple, on Tisha Be’av, a fitting activity for the day on which Jewish tradition says both the First and Second Temples were destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans respectively.

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It is unclear if this figure is truly represented in the numbers of people actually visiting the Western Wall on Tisha Be’av, however.

The findings come from a new study by Prof. Camil Fuchs for the Jewish People Policy Institute that published ahead of Tisha Be’av, which falls on Saturday night and Sunday.

Three thousand Israeli Jews were surveyed for the poll, which also deals with other matters of religion, and which has a stated margin of error of 1.8%.

Along with the 36% of Israeli Jews who fast the entire day, 6% fast for part of the day, and 2% avoid food but do drink.

Of those who visit the Western Wall, the vast majority are national- religious or haredi (ultra-Orthodox). Approximately 9% of national- religious and haredi Jews, and 3% of those defining themselves as religiously traditional, say they visit the site on the fast day.

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The percentage of secular Jews who visit the Western Wall on Tisha Be’av is practically zero, and the day is much less part of the mainstream consciousness than, for instance, Yom Kippur on which 97% of traditional Jews say they fast.

Indeed, the majority of Israelis do not see any special significance in Tisha Be’av. Fifty-five percent of Israeli Jews claim that as far as they are concerned, Tisha Be’av is just a regular day. For other national days of mourning like Holocaust Remembrance Day or Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars, only a small percentage of Jews (9% and 5% percent respectively, most of them haredi) claim they are just regular days.

The JPPI study also looked at other aspects of Jewish practice and the extent to which they are observed.

Some 22% of those polled fast on the Fast of Esther and the Fast of Gedalia, 24% on the Fast of the 10th of Tevet, and 67% on Yom Kippur.

Some 5% participate in the priestly blessing on Succot and Passover.

In total, the survey found that 31% of Israeli Jews defined themselves as national-religious, across the spectrum of that community, or haredi.

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