Tisha B'Av in Israel
Tisha B'Av, known as תשעה באב in Hebrew, is a significant Jewish observance in Israel. This somber day commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and other historical tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people. Tisha B'Av is observed on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which typically falls in July or August in the Gregorian calendar.
The tradition of observing Tisha B'Av in Israel dates back thousands of years, to the times of the First and Second Temples. Both Temples were destroyed on the ninth day of Av, the First by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second by the Romans in 70 CE. Over time, Tisha B'Av has also become a day to remember other tragedies the Jewish people have experienced throughout history, such as the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and various pogroms.
National customs for Tisha B'Av in Israel
Tisha B'Av is a solemn day in Israel, marked by fasting and mourning. Many of the customs for Tisha B'Av resemble those of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The fast begins at sundown and lasts for approximately 25 hours. During this time, observant Jews abstain from eating, drinking, bathing, wearing leather shoes, and engaging in marital relations. Additionally, many people refrain from greeting each other or exchanging pleasantries to maintain a somber atmosphere.
Prayer services on Tisha B'Av are also characterized by specific customs. The Book of Lamentations, known as Eicha in Hebrew, is read aloud, and special prayers called Kinot are recited to mourn the destruction of the Temples and other tragedies. People often sit on the floor or low stools during these services, as a sign of mourning.
Local customs for Tisha B'Av in Israel
While the national customs for Tisha B'Av are observed throughout Israel, there are also local customs that may vary from community to community. Some congregations may hold all-night vigils or study sessions on the eve of Tisha B'Av, focusing on the themes of destruction and exile in Jewish history. In Jerusalem, many people visit the Western Wall, the last remaining part of the Second Temple, to pray and mourn on Tisha B'Av.
In recent years, some secular Israelis and progressive Jewish communities have used Tisha B'Av as an opportunity to reflect on modern-day social injustices and to promote peace and reconciliation among different groups in Israeli society. This approach to Tisha B'Av emphasizes the importance of learning from past tragedies to build a better future.
Tisha B'Av is a deeply significant and solemn day in Israel, observed by both religious and secular Jews alike. Through fasting, prayer, and reflection on the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout history, Israelis remember the past and look to the future with hope and determination.