All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The 2007 Tisha B'Av Experience

Tisha B'Av (lit. the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av) is the one day in which we Jews look back in both anger and sadness at the multitudinous calamities that have befallen our nation over the Millennia - most of which eerily took place on this very day.

So, here I am, at 6.26 p.m, nearly at the end of this sometimes tortuous day. How do I feel? How can I really understand what it means to lose a Temple (or two), face the thought of being evicted from Spain (the inquistion kicked into action on Tisha B'Av) or even look across the ruinous landscape of six million deaths?

What can Tisha B'Av really mean to someone like me, who was born after we regained Jerusalem, Hebron and the Golan in 1967? Today, according to one website, 100,000 Jews prayed freely at the Western Wall. And here I am fasting for the destruction of Jerusalem?

We have Yom Hashoah and Holocaust Remembrance Day to mark the "H" word. The deaths of our great-uncles and aunts, cousins and distant relatives throughout the Shoah is never far from our minds, so why do we need Tisha B'Av. Why put myself through such discomfort when we Jews have returned to Spain, England and France and yes, even Israel?

I've grappled with this thought for a while and very sadly, have realised what Tisha B'Av is all about.

If we foolishly thought that persecution and animosity were a thing of past years, just take a moment to look around you. Consider the rhetoric spewing out of Iran, Syria, Pakistan (or wherever Bin Laden and his Nazis are hiding), Caracas or London - and tell me a reason not to commemorate this fast.

When you have numerous pro-Palestinian MP's, journalists and media figures openly spouting anti-semitic bile, all the while dressed up in Anti-Zionist clothing - please tell me, what has changed for us Jews. Look at the recent Richard Littlejohn programme on the resurgence of Anti-Semitism in Britain and explain to me why I shouldn't be mourning and fasting today.

There are powerful movements in this free and democratic country of Britain who want to stop us killing our animals according to the strict Jewish guidelines - because it's "cruel".

Others have a problem with the way we carry out our practices of ritual circumcision (shechitah) without anaestetic - because it's "inhumane".

And yes, many others who actively spur their unions on to try and wreck boycott Israeli, or rather read as "Jewish", academic, sporting or medical institutions.

Yet none of the above can use the spurious excuse that they are Arabs and have a beef with Israel. All of the these are educated, and on the whole, white, "peace-loving" Christian folk.

While I'm at it, why not mention our open-minded ally, the Pope, who is doing what he can to regress Christian-Jewish relations by forty years by replacing the bold Nostra Aetate with the anti-semitic Latin Mass, whose use was outlawed by John XXIII.

The Greeks and Romans tried to ban our religious practices, such as shechitah and circumcision.

The Nazis boycotted our academic, medical and educational institutions and the Inquisition was all about destroying our Jewish beliefs- as expressed in the possibly soon-to-be reinstated Latin Mass.

So what is the difference is today.

I fast on Tisha B'av because my experience of persecution as Jew continues into the 21st Century.

Three thousand years ago, King Solomon wrote these prophetic words:

Ein chadash tachat hashemesh - there is nothing new under the sun.

And when it comes to our many reasons for commemorating Tisha B'Av, he was so very right.

Anti-semitism, in all its ugliness is still with us. The problem is, however, that after a short interlude whilst the world felt a modicum of guilt for its shameful behaviour during the Holocaust, it is well and truly thriving.

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