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The roads of Zion mourn

by michael August 09 2008
HolidaysThings to do
"Renew our days as of old" - Tisha B'Av at the Kotel

"How alone sits the city once great with people," begins the Book of Lamentations, wailed tonight in Jewish communities across the world, bemoaning a Jerusalem laid waste by the armies of Babylon, its inhabitants cast into exile. And even though today the city is once again great with people, its people delivered from Babylon and beyond - hardly a state of affairs calling for jeremiads - the pain of ancient destruction and ancient expulsion is still felt on the streets and in the synagogues. Jerusalem, in fact, may be the only city in the world in which the thousands of years of heartbreak embodied in Tisha B'Av is truly palpable.

No Jewish holiday is more thematically significant for Jerusalem; for fervently Orthodox Jews, even though Jerusalem is under Jewish sovereignty, the wounds of Ninths of Av past remain unhealed, the ruined Temple still unrestored. The sense that something is missing fuels the passionate reading of Lamentations tonight at the Western Wall, where for hundreds of years Jews have lamented the loss of their spiritual center. Thousands of Jews, both Orthodox and not, cram into the Wall plaza to take part in the acute, community-wide mourning.

Those looking for additional ways to commemorate the holiday can attend a lecture at Beit Avi Chai concerning senseless hatred (which supposedly led to the destruction of the Second Temple) in modern Israel, or take a guided tour of what remains of the Temple in the area of the Old City.

Image courtesy of oligopistos from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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