With hostilities raging in Gaza, and Israelis living under the shadow of missile attacks, the melancholy and even frightening tone of Tisha B’Av is particularly stark this year. Tisha B’Av — the somber anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple by the Roman legions — is preceded by the Three Weeks of increasing mourning; between the violence and the rising anti-Jewish sentiment, it hasn’t been difficult for many Jews to slip into that all-too-familiar state.
The connection between Tisha B’Av and Jerusalem, and the union between the Jews of Israel and the Diaspora, is deep and constant. We read the Book of Lamentations and consider the threats modern Israel faces. We recall the enemies who destroyed the holy city then and consider those who would do the same now if given the chance. We pray for our brothers and sisters in harm’s way.
But Tisha B’Av is also a time for personal and national introspection. The liturgy reminds us that we are called on to be just and righteous and be worthy of the Land. We are told to remove hatred from our hearts and to live up to our calling as a nation of prophets and a kingdom of priests. And we are reminded that, amid the desolation and bloodshed, there is a ray of hope.
This Tisha B’Av we pray that Israel’s foes put aside their enmity; that Israel’s leaders and those who defend her act with courage, wisdom, and compassion; and that ultimately the weapons can be put aside and two historical antagonists can learn to live peaceably in a land that has seen too much lamentation.