Last night began a 25 hour fast – Tisha B’Av (though this year, it takes place on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Av instead of on the 9th day because other than for Yom Kippur, we do not fast on the Sabbath). My husband and I joined a small group, including the mayor of Maale Adumim, on a mountain that sits between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim.
Politicians call it E1; Israeli governments have called it Mevasseret Adumim. Currently, there is a huge police station built there and nothing else; plans exist to build apartments and a hotel. The Arabs want this hill, hoping to stop the connection between Jerusalem and the 45,000 people who live in Maale Adumim.
On Tisha B’Av, we mourn the destruction of both our Holy Temples, hundreds of years apart and yet destroyed on the same calendar day. This is a day through history when terrible things have happened – there’s a long list that maybe I’ll post later. We sit on the ground or on low chairs as we do during the week of mourning when a loved one dies, and we read the Book of Lamentations, Eicha.
If you really want to see a city, go on the next mountain over at night. Maale Adumim stretches across several hills. At one point, I saw the mayor go to the edge of the clearing and stare at his city; at another time, an ambulance came down and I watched him focus on the ambulance and watch as it made its way out of Maale Adumim and begin the climb to Jerusalem. His city. His people. I have to admit, I’m a fan of his. He has dedicated the last 20 years of his life to making this city grow. While many use political positions as a stepping stone to greater and higher positions, Benny Kashriel has remained loyal to our city and has watched it grow.
He had a vision of a lake. A lake in a desert, can you imagine? How silly, many of us thought. A lake. A desert. How ridiculous. And yet, today, there is a lake and a lovely cafe visited by hundreds of people each evening. This is a man that makes things happen. He came quietly to this gathering, sat with us, followed the reading, and only spoke to those who spoke to him.
After seeing him looking at his city, I couldn’t resist, “how does it feel to look over there and see how much it has grown?” I asked him. Silly question, but I wanted to hear him say what I knew he would – on this night when we mourn so much we have lost, I wanted to hear a small celebration of what we have built.
“It’s something fantastic,” he told me, “and there’s more to come.”
It was a beautiful evening last night; pleasant with a nice breeze. We sat on the middle of a barren hilltop – behind us the amazing city of Maale Adumim and to our front, the united capital of Israel, Jerusalem. No, we don’t have our Holy Temple (yet) rebuilt, but Jerusalem is in our hands.
I’m balancing the sadness of the day with the added cruelty of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics and trying to get a bit of work done from home. For the first time, all my children are fasting. It’s a strange feeling, even little Aliza, who is now 12 years old and after her bat mitzvah.
Later this week, Elie goes into miluim and I’m a bit worried about this one. I’m so glad it is after the three week mourning period and not during it.
Tisha B’Av is a not so much a day of introspection, as Yom Kippur is. It is more a day of deep and endless mourning. Today, as we watch the triumph of silence over honor, that is particularly easy.