Monday, July 31, 2017

Destruction and Uprootedness? Connecting to Tisha B'Av - by Nadav Shragai

...Our divisive past that has already brought destruction upon us prompts us to seek a better future. Tisha B'Av is a fitting time to do just that.

Nadav Shragai..
Israel Hayom..
31 July '17..

In 1934, influential Labor Zionist Berl Katznelson heard that one of the youth movements was planning to begin its summer camping trip on the Tisha B'Av fast day, which marks the day that both Jewish temples were destroyed. Katznelson, one of the most prominent leaders of the Labor Movement in pre-state Israel, was appalled and consequently penned an article titled "Destruction and Uprootedness."

In the article, Katznelson wondered, "What value lies in a liberation movement that has no roots and that forgets?"

"If the Jewish people hadn't known to mourn our loss throughout the generations, none of [the Zionist pioneers Moses] Hess and [Leon] Pinsker, [Theodor] Herzl or [Max] Nordau would have arisen. ... Judah Halevi could not have created 'Zion, Do You Wonder?' and [Haim Nahman] Bialik could not have written 'The Scroll of Fire,'" he wrote.

It doesn't take too much effort to find signs of "destruction and uprootedness" today as well -- 1947 years after the Second Temple was destroyed, Tisha B'Av is unpopular among the general public. The mourning for the loss of our Temple is almost exclusively observed by the national religious and the haredim.

Most of the Jewish public in Israel is not only disconnected from the concept of the Temple -- a concept that once united us -- they are sometimes even alienated by it. Even among the religious public, only a small minority truly long for the renewal of the Temple and all that it entails.

For most of the Israeli public, Tisha B'Av is relevant mostly because of the story of the destruction of the Temple and the historical and archaeological evidence that the Temple existed. The loss of religious liberty and sovereignty allows the public at large to identify with much of what the day entails, and the modern battle over the Temple Mount helps, too.

Another significant insight that helps some of us today connect to Tisha B'Av lies in Jewish tradition, which blames the Temple's destruction on an internal rift that ended up helping the enemy; the Zealots who refused to submit to Rome, even if it cost them their lives; the peacemongers who wanted to save Jerusalem in their own way but failed; the shrewdness of Rabbi Johanan ben Zakai, who secured a promise from the Romans that Jewish religion and culture would be allowed to endure; and also the story of Bar Kamtza, who was so offended when he was sent away from a rich man's feast that he incited the Roman emperor against his Jewish brethren.

Modern-day Israel is also plagued with infighting and finds it hard to handle disputes. It often feels as though there are two separate Jewish peoples living in Israel who speak different languages and respond differently to the same events.

It sometimes appears as though the Jewish people have stopped behaving as a collective, as if different subgroups have more loyalty to themselves than to the Jewish people as a whole.

Alongside the traditional mourning and the reading of Lamentations, this day should also be devoted to togetherness, to finding ways to build bridges and to dialogue between different parts of society: religion and state, a Jewish state and a democratic state, Jews and Israelis, Right and Left, and the religious and the secular.

We will continue to disagree, but maybe we will be better equipped to channel these disagreements into debate, dialogue, and ways of reaching a consensus.

Our divisive past that has already brought destruction upon us prompts us to seek a better future. Tisha B'Av is a fitting time to do just that.

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