Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer time and the livin' is not so easy

Our daughter Malki on the left, in an embrace with
Michal, her very close friend. The two girls
are buried side-by-side here in Jerusalem
...A society that chooses to honour the lives of its murdered children through constructive acts of remembrance, joy and charity has a special resilience. Their pain is not removed or even lightened; their hopes and dreams are not necessarily granted to them; and the men (and women… and children) with the bombs strapped to their chests are not thwarted. The strength of a society that knows how to remember is something to behold. It is a privilege to be living in its midst.

Frimet/Arnold Roth..
This Ongoing War..
05 August '14..

In the world of Jewish memories and experience, this time of year has a stressful and difficult character. It’s a very hot Tuesday here in Jerusalem at this moment. When the sun sets this evening, Jews in Jerusalem - and everywhere else - will end their observance of the ninth day of Av.

People who have a hard time relating in a personal way to the events of a year ago will wonder about this. But Av happens to be a difficult month for people who live by the traditional Jewish calendar. Why so? Because the ninth day of Av is when the Babylonians - in modern terms, the residents of ancient Iraq - destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. In doing so, they brought an end to independent Jewish life in what we call Israel today. They killed some 100,000 Jews here, while exiling almost all the others.

Some 640 years later, in the year 70, it was the turn of the Roman empire to conquer Israel and for the second and last time the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This time, some two million Jews were killed; a million more went into an exile that lasted many centuries. An independent Jewish nation in its own land did not arise again until the establishment of modern Israel 65 years ago.

Av the ninth is marked by a sunset-to-sunset absolute fast that ends in the next hour. During it, observant Jews say mournful prayers, deliberately allow ourselves to experience physical discomfort and engage in a great deal of personal and community introspection. Beyond the ancient history aspects, the same date has been associated with some of the Jewish people’s blackest moments.

On this day, the entire Jewish community of Spain was expelled in the fateful year 1492. On this day in 1942 in the city of Warsaw, Poland - a third of whose entire population was Jewish at the time - the Nazi Germans began to liquidate the ghetto and send its inhabitants to their deaths in the Treblinka factory of death.

The rest of the summer for most religiously observant Jews gets easier and more enjoyable once the ninth of Av is safely behind us. That relaxation does not quite impact our family in the same way, unfortunately. This is because 13 years ago, in 2001, our eldest daughter Malki, 15, was killed in a Hamas terrorist outrage in the center of Jerusalem.

So even as most Jews breathe a sigh of relief with the end of the fast, in our home we prepare ourselves for the annual pilgrimage to Malki's grave and the public commemoration of the anniversary (called azkara in Hebrew) of her murder.


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