Two years ago I wrote about experiencing Tisha b'Av here, and the disconnect I felt mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem while sitting in the middle of a lively, vibrant Jerusalem. You can read that post here. This year I feel the same disconnect…and have a few additional observations.
Ironically, it seems like it's easier to get into the traditional spirit of mourning for destruction of Jerusalem when sitting far away from Jerusalem. When Jerusalem can be a disembodied theoretical sort of place, it's easier to simply mourn for the destruction of 2000 years ago. When you're living in Jerusalem, and are surrounded by the life and vitality of Jerusalem, it's hard to mourn for its destruction.
On the other hand, it's still easy to feel sad today, and I do indeed feel sad, and it's not just because the themes and words in Lamentations are so darn depressing. "The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they were their food in the destruction of the daughter of my people." That line is just a little too hard to relate to; on the other hand, when I read "Our pursuers are swifter than the vultures of the sky; they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness" I am reminded of more contemporary enemies, and missiles that are definitely swifter than vultures of the sky.
This year I found myself again on the Haas Promenade (aka "The Tayellet"), and felt, in addition to the other emotions, a sense of responsibility. The temple was destroyed twice; the Jews have suffered numerous exiles and tribulations. Today, once again, we finally have a land of our own, a country we call home. Yet what are we doing with it? How are we treating each other? Will we merit to still be living here generations from now, or will we blow it again? The last time the temple was destroyed we are told it was because of sinat chinam, gratuitious hatred. How much gratuitous hatred do we still have around here, hatred for Arabs, hatred for Jews who practice Judaism differently than we do (secular vs. ultra-Orthodox vs. Reform, etc.)?
I even got a taste of that sinat chinam today. I went to a gathering at the Van Leer Institute, sponsored by Rabbis for Human Rights that was supposed to be a discussion about what happened during the Gaza War. RHR wanted a balanced discussion — representatives of the IDF were invited — but the IDF refused to participate (see the J Post article about it here). The IDF might have been a no show, but the protesters were there. Not exactly in force — across the street from the entrance to the Van Leer Institute were half a dozen protesters, one with a megaphone, yelling insults at people going into the conference.
The promoters of the conference aren't even accusing the IDF of anything; all they are saying is that there have been enough soldiers that have come forward with troubling testimony (see Breaking the Silence ) that an independent inquiry is called for. We hope and pray that an independent inquiry would show that any untoward episodes were individual acts, not a result of bad orders; but there should be an inquiry so that we know. For favoring such an inquiry, visitors to the Van Leer Institute this morning were treated to insults and cat calls. On the day before the holiday when we commemorate the destruction of the temple for gratuitous hatred.
As the great sometimes Jewish poet and singer Robert Zimmerman put it "when will they ever learn?"
May those of you fasting have a meaningful fast.