The ninth of Av, in Hebrew Tisha B’Av, has been a day of remembrance and mourning since 586 B.C.E. when the Babylonians destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and sent the Jews into exile. That day inspired the psalmist to write, “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1) Jews were permitted to return to Israel after the Babylonians were defeated to restore their homeland, but in 70 C.E. the Romans destroyed the Holy Temple and sent the Jews into exile yet again. This exile ended almost 2000 years later with the establishment of the State of Israel in l948. Whether by coincidence or tragic fate, the destruction of both temples occurred on the same date, the ninth of Av.
The Ninth of Av is a day that has taken on mythical and historical significance as a day of tragedy for the Jewish people. The Spanish Inquisition in l942 when the Jews were expelled from Spain occurred on Tisha B’Av. On the eve of Tisha B’Av the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka, concentration death camp.
As we remember the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem and the exile of Jews from Jerusalem, from Spain, and the incomprehensible tragedy of the Holocaust, we are strengthened by the mandate to resist the enemy and never give up in the face of our foes.
Today the State of Israel celebrates 70 years of rebirth since l948, and yet faces a nuclear and belligerent Iran who still threatens to destroy Israel, the Hamas terrorists who send rockets, missiles, and balloons filled with bombs to destroy and murder, and the failed leadership of the Palestinians who reject every single peace offer and still “pay to slay” rewarding terrorists for murdering Israelis. The BDS movement to boycott Israel economically is misguided and unethical. The tide is beginning to shift away from the hate, away from propaganda and Anti-Semitism. 16 US States, France, Spain have laws against BDS and so called activists are being turned away. Discrimination in the form of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel only is clearly immoral and racist. There is no BDS for Syria, Iran, Russia, North Korea or other countries supporting terror. The US Embassy finally moving to Jerusalem is a step in the right direction. Other countries are doing the same: Guatemala, Paraguay, with Czech Republic, Romania and Honduras considering it. In the face of all this, Israel remains a modern miracle, a beacon of light and hope. A source of never ending technology and science to cure disease and improve our lives.
For a country the size of New Jersey it is even more remarkable. There are 6000 startups currently in Israel! Countries are utilizing the technology of water conservation, solar hot water, computer innovations, and the Iron Dome rocket interception system. ReWalk, enables paraplegics to stand, walk and climb stairs; while a new robotic guidance system of spine surgery helps surgeons and patients. Nobel prizes abound from Israel, a tiny country with a tremendous brain power. If only Israel’s enemies sworn to destroy her put that hatred towards innovation and science, education and medicine, there would be less suffering and less ignorance. Arab states are now eager to form alliances to confront Iran and extremists. Israel recently won the Eurovision Song Contest and will host it next year.
Remembering our tragedies has strengthened our will to live, to create, to heal and to help the world.
On Tisha B’Av we remember the destruction of Jerusalem and welcome the rebirth of Israel, the return of the US Embassy and others to Jerusalem, and the modern miracle of a once exiled people returning to their homeland. The embrace of democracy and impressive scientific, cultural, and economic achievements are miraculous given the need for security against a barrage of hatred, wars and terror.
Israel is the model for hope against despair; creation against destruction and a yearning for peace above all.
Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray