Somber nation marks Tisha Be’av

Book of Lamentations read at various locations throughout the country.

Tisha Beav kotel 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Tisha Beav kotel 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Observant and secular Israelis alike crowded places of worship Monday night to mark Tisha Be’av, the day of fasting and mournful contemplation commemorating the destruction of both Temples and Jerusalem, and the ensuing exile of Jews from the Holy Land.
In 1997, the Knesset legislated the prohibition of opening places of entertainment and pleasure – such as cinemas, theaters, concerts and sports events – on the night of Tisha Be’av.
The Book of Eicha (Lamentations), written by the prophet Jeremiah who in the time of the First Temple had warned the people of Israel of the looming disasters lest they repent, was read at various locations in the evening, including the Kotel in Jerusalem.
The twelfth annual “Tonight We Don’t Learn Torah” event brought together secular, religious and even haredi Jews together under the banner of “If I forget thee Jerusalem,” groups in Tel Aviv, Modi’in, Jerusalem, Haifa and many other locations.
After the Eicha reading, pairs of speakers from a variety of fields – culture, politics, education, and religion – conducted discussions on this year’s topic – the personal and national responsibility toward Jerusalem.
The growing resurgence of the importance of the holiday among non-observant Israelis is also manifest in the events and ceremonies marking the day in a meaningful and significant way.
One such group is the Bina organization that promotes secular Jewish thought and study. Together with Alma – Home for Hebrew Culture and Beit Tefila Israeli – the group held an alternative secular Tisha Be’av evening in Tel Aviv of text-readings from Eicha and Josephus Flavius’ The Jewish Wars, followed by discussions on topics such as hunger, disintegration of the regime, and pointless hatred.