Disrespect or a disproportionate response?

Is the scheduled date on Tisha B'Av of Depeche Mode's concert an insult to observant Jews?

depeche mode 88 298 (photo credit: )
depeche mode 88 298
(photo credit: )
When the internationally renowned British electro-pop band Depeche Mode scheduled a performance in Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park for August 3, band members almost certainly didn't know they risked offending members of the audience. But as every Israeli calendar indicates, August 3 falls on the ninth of Av, a fast day which marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples and is one of the most somber days of the Jewish year. A member of the Knesset is now denouncing the date of the concert and calling for it to be rescheduled. The evening concert, which will take place after the fasting has ended, has drawn criticism from religious groups in the Knesset who argue that a rock concert would diminish the gravity and solemnity of what is traditionally a day of mourning. "It is not respectful to Judaism," MK Nissan Slomianski told The Jerusalem Post. "It's crazy, unbelievable that they would have a celebration on this day, which is one of the most subdued days of the year." Slomianski, a member of the National Union-National Religious Party, sent out a press release denouncing the concert yesterday, despite the fact that the date of the concert was announced months ago and has been heavily publicized ever since. Slomianski says he only found out about the concert yesterday morning and says he expects promoters to change the date out of respect. Although the concert will not officially start until after the fast has ended, Slomianski believes that fans will begin waiting in line in the early afternoon, long before the holiday officially ends around 8:30 p.m. "If I were religious and wanted to hear the band, what would I do?" Slomianski said. "My friends would be in synagogue, praying and honoring the day, and I would be going to see a rock concert? That should not happen in Israel." A representative from Ronit Arbel Public Relations, the agency promoting the event, emphasized that the concert does not begin until after the holiday is over. "The concert is after the end of Tisha B'Av (the ninth of Av)," a representative said in an official response. She added that after the fast breaks, "life goes back to normal," and holding a concert is not inappropriate. Slomianski maintains that the concert should not be held on August 3, citing a law that forbids places of amusement - like concert venues - from being open on the ninth of Av. The law, proposed by former National Religious Party MK Shaul Yahalom, was passed in November 1997 and extended in June 2002 to include the closure of restaurants as well. But since the concert will not start until after the holiday ends, there is no binding law prohibiting Depeche Mode's Hayarkon Park venue from holding the concert. Still, Slomianski said the concert violates the "spirit of the day." "It's upsetting morally," Slomianski said. "It disrupts the day and it's not right." Dr. Gidon Sapir, a Bar-Ilan University law professor specializing in the separation of church and state, said that there is nothing wrong with the concert's scheduling, despite what some religious factions may say. "When Tisha Be'av is over, it's over," Sapir said. "The religious argue that it's more of a nationally symbolic holiday, which is the rationale for the law, but as soon as the fast ends, everything is allowed to happen again, including concerts." Sapir says that those who want to observe the holiday will still be able to attend the concert. As for the people lining up early to see the show, he said that each individual can make a personal choice - it's not a matter for the government to decide. "People will do what they want," Sapir said. The Depeche Mode concert is part of this summer's impressive lineup of international artists performing here. Other stars who have already performed include Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, Sting, 50 Cent and the Black Eyed Peas.