Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Here in Israel, there is just a little over an hour left to Tisha B'Av, the holiday commemorating the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, as well as the long list of other tragic events in Jewish history. My head is a little foggy from the fasting, so forgive me if this post isn't too coherent.

Last night, my French neighbor Nomi and I went together to the Windmill plaza overlooking the Old City to hear Eichah. We were among the first to arrive, and took a few moments to gaze at the Old City walls as the sun set, all pink and grey and blue. Nomi made a comment that echoed my own thoughts: "Jews have been dreaming about this place, fasting because of it every year, for 2,000 years. And now here we are." And I added to that: "Tonight and tomorrow, Jews all over the world will fast in memory of something that stood right over there, and we get to be here in this place ourselves." It was just awesome. And I don't mean in the 80's sense. I mean it was awe-inspiring.

Over the next 45 minutes, about 500 people showed up to sit on the plaza and hear Eichah, which was read over a microphone by a group of guys from England. I heard a lot of Hebrew, English, and French among the crowd before and after the reading. There we were, under the stars, 500 Jews, reading aloud an ancient, sacred book about events that had happened right there, over that wall.

Since making aliyah I've often found it difficult to take in the spirituality of Jeruslaem, its importance and its history. The sheer magnitude of it all is usually too overwhelming for me to think about, so I don't. But last night, I heard the words "eichah yashva badad . . . " and I looked at the crowd and at the wall and I thought "This place, this very place, was badad (forsaken/desolate). But now look at all these people who have come home . . . " And I knew that there is nowhere on earth I'd rather be on Tisha B'Av than right here. On Tisha B'Av, and every day.

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