Tensions High on Tisha B’av

Today is a special day in Israel, the 9th day of the month of Av (Tisha B’av). It is a day on which people fast and pray that God will keep the nation and preserve her in the land. It commemorates the destruction of both the First and the Second Temple in Jerusalem, as well as other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.

On this day many Israelis want to obey the call to prayer in Psalm 122 verses 6 and 7:

‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls …’

Consequently they want to go to the Western Wall, in accordance with the earlier verses of the psalm:

‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD” …
where the tribes go up … to give thanks to the name of the LORD …’

But this year it looked as if praying at the Western Wall would be a very different experience, with the plaza divided into ‘pods’ to minimise any spread of the coronavirus.

Pod-style prayer at the Western WallPod-style prayer at the Western Wall (photo by Elron Zabatani / TPS)

Searching for possible causes of the tragedies that have befallen the Jews, scholars of Israel’s scriptures and history have ascribed the destruction of the Temples and exile from the land to ‘sinat hinam’ – baseless hatred.

So this day is one for the regathered exiles to reflect upon the lessons from history and recall what unites them in the modern Jewish state.

That is why some are concerned about recent events, such as that outside the official residence of the Prime Minister, when a group of far-right extremists attacked a crowd of protesters who were calling for his resignation.

And yesterday evening, hundreds of people stormed through the Western Wall security precautions, angry about the coronavirus restrictions upon their gathering to pray.

So Israeli police are now preparing for more violence during this evening’s protests against Benjamin Netanyahu, which are expected to take place in front of his official residence again.

Tensions are running very high in Israel due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact upon businesses – even higher than in many other countries.

For those who would like to know more about Tisha B’av, here is a video posted yesterday by CBN.