“Oh why did she go and fall in love, I haven’t seen her since Tisha B’Av. My Zelda, she took the money and ran with the tailor.” Alan Sherman
I love Alan Sherman but he more or less ruined the possibility of Tisha B’Av for me. Until now.
It is early Saturday evening, a couple of hours before sundown. I had confirmed that the hotel restaurant was open since it was both Shabbat and Erev Tisha B’Av. It was empty as I approached. The drapes were drawn as the sun formed seams around the edges. I stepped out onto the terrace for an end of Shabbat l’Chaim. The bar was empty.
I returned inside. The hostess explained that while in fact the restaurant was open (and it was perfectly legal for it to have been so), it could not be seen to be open as Tisha B’Av approached. Understood. Although my meal was halachachly correct as I understood it, I felt guilty for eating.
I was joined by the Swedes for dinner before observance began. I returned upstairs, my leather shoes came off, and my first Tisha B’Av in Israel commenced in Tel Aviv.
I awoke early for the trip to Jerusalem. While I have enjoyed my break, I could not even begin to imagine observing Tisha B’Av anyplace else. But getting there had a hiccup. I have long prided myself on my facility with public transportation around the world. It appears that, in Israel, I am transportationally challenged. I took a cab to the Central Bus Station. The bus lot was blocked by a police car and tape. Bomb scare. This is a country in which these things are taken with the utmost seriousness. For reasons that should be obvious. I took a cab, the driver of which had the decency to quote a non-rapacious price.
It was hot and damp as it has been. On the ride back, I read a Jerusalem Post alert that this morning police had quelled a riot on the Temple Mount – dozens of policemen had to control people stockpiled with with kerosene, bottles, and rocks, planning, as I later learned from a more in-depth article, to attack those of us who would be praying at the Kotel. Good to know, as I had every intention of being there this afternoon for Minchah. Nothing would change my plans. As long as Jews were mourning the Temple at its mount, I would be there too.
The sky was summer white. It remained that way from Tel Aviv until we began to climb the hills into Jerusalem. As we did, the air began to clear and the sky regained its characteristic clear blue. By the time I got out on French Hill, the air was, to quote Naomi Shemer, clear as wine. The air was hot and dry, and a cooling desert breeze was blowing.
I don’t make this up. This is Jerusalem.
If the Romans (and Babylonians) really did have to destroy our Temples, they picked a fine time of year to do it. Jerusalem at 90 degrees is considerably better than Tel Aviv at 85, but hot is hot. I arrived at the Kotel around 12:30, because I wanted to be there for early Minchah. The Kotel doesn’t get a whole lot of shade in the first place. Just after high noon in late July, well. And it is blazing white as is the entire plaza in front of it. And a wool tallis. You get the picture.
I had arrived a bit too early, so sat in the shade of an arch just past the plaza. I won’t say anything about the German tourists who decided to honor this public fast day by spreading out their picnic under the arch, other than to observe that in almost any other place in the world, and certainly any other place in the Middle East (including the place just above us on the Temple Mount), such cultural insensitivity would have been met with some kind of reaction, if not violence. Yet the small brigade of heavily armed, very young police officers resting and joking beside them after their morning’s work protecting us continued their rest. This is, after all, a nation dedicated to tolerance and equality. It behooves the world to remember this.
I removed my sweat-stained tefillin. I suppose I could try to write about what it felt like to daven against the Kotel on Tisha B’Av but you can probably imagine and I don’t have a whole lot of words properly to express it.
So I won’t try. Upon arriving back at my apartment, I watched some excellent lectures directed toward the meaning of the day. None was better than this fantastic talk by Rabbi Abraham Twersky. http://http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/1763754/jewish/A-Jewish-Response-to-Suffering.htmI hope all of you will watch it. All of it. While the Jewish attitude toward suffering is clear, I doubt it has ever been better expressed.
Night is falling. Only about half an hour until the fast ends. As befits one who claims Yom Kippur as his favorite holiday, I find fasting wonderfully cathartic.
May all suffering end. And, as long as it doesn’t, may we see the good in it and be grateful for that good.