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By August 11, 2019 Read More →

Tisha Bav at the Kotel – Celebrating whilst Mourning

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There is one time of the year that I make a point of going to the Kotel – the end of Tisha Bav.

Having grown up in a small community in London, that comparison of standing with tens of thousands of Jews, singing with Ha’Rav Schachter and the NCSY kids with what the end of Tisha Bav was like in London, where you were just watching films about the Holocaust and counting down until the fast went out ( later than here) still reflects how life here in Israel is so much more vibrant and real than life in the Diaspora.

Yesterday, like every other year, the Old City and Kotel was bursting with Jews – Sefard and Ashkenaz, young and old, all connected by that sense of loss and yearning for the Temple.

At the same time however, there was a sense of tragedy – That, unlike on Erev Yom Kippur when the Old City and Kotel area is also full of secular Jews, I don’t recall seeing one secular Jew yesterday. Yes, I’m not exaggerating – I was there for around an hour and I don’t recall seeing one secular Jew.

It’s ironic that on the one day of the year when we are supposed to focus on unity, togetherness and what we have in common, the Kotel area which is the closest we get to the holiest place in Judaism, the Temple Mount, was void of secular Jews.

Yes, singing with the NCSY kids with the Kotel in the background, was special as it is every year. Saying Havdalah with strangers and then breaking the fast with friends sitting in the  plaza area of the Kotel was special as it is every year, but there is also a tragedy is all this.

That, on the other hand, being at the Kotel on Tisha Bav highlights that little has changed since the Temples were destroyed and we are still two people, separated by far more than just Road one.

Rav Alex Israel wrote this yesterday on Facebook and I think he is making a very important point:

‘A Tale of two cities.
Two events this evening drew gatherings of many thousands, or even tens of thousands..
Tel Aviv – Kikar Rabin – Rally for GLBT legal rights
Jerusalem – The Kotel – End of Tisha BAv

If today was a day about introspection regarding our national unity, these parallel images are a direct reminder that we have much work to do.’

Rav Alex is totally right in saying this. That the reality is, sadly, we are two people.

What can we do to solve this chasm in Israeli society? The answer is in 3 words – EDUCATION, EDUCATION and EDUCATION.

PG next year, the Temple will be rebuilt and all Jews will be there, from all walks of life.

Benjy.

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