Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tisha B’Av

Mindless Hatred on the Ninth of Av

Today is the ninth day of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar, a date that is synonymous with disaster and mourning. It was on this date that the Babylonians destroyed the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The second Temple also fell to the Romans on the same day. Subsequently, other oppressors also chose to inflict suffering on the Jewish people on the ninth of Av (or Tisha B’Av as it is known in Hebrew). Spain expelled its remaining Jews who had not converted on this day in 1492. The Nazis also selected that date to begin the deportation of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 to death camps.

Observant Jews commemorate Tisha B’Av with fasting and prayer, but it is also traditional to use this day as a starting point for discussions about the concept of sinat hinam or mindless hatred. Jewish teaching has always held that the temples fell not merely because of foreign power but due to the mindless hatred of Jews against each other whose disunity weakened the community to the point where it became easy prey to its enemies. Israeli society, with its divisions along religious lines and divisive arguments, provides plenty of fodder for such discussions and this year, like any other, is a good time to remind all sectors of the Jewish world to try and listen to each other rather than to reflexively demonize their foes. But just as Jews should use the anniversary of the destruction of the first and second Jewish commonwealths to look inward, the day should also be a reminder that the external forces of anti-Semitism and hate that inflicted suffering in the past are far from dead in our own day.

Read More

Today is the ninth day of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar, a date that is synonymous with disaster and mourning. It was on this date that the Babylonians destroyed the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The second Temple also fell to the Romans on the same day. Subsequently, other oppressors also chose to inflict suffering on the Jewish people on the ninth of Av (or Tisha B’Av as it is known in Hebrew). Spain expelled its remaining Jews who had not converted on this day in 1492. The Nazis also selected that date to begin the deportation of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 to death camps.

Observant Jews commemorate Tisha B’Av with fasting and prayer, but it is also traditional to use this day as a starting point for discussions about the concept of sinat hinam or mindless hatred. Jewish teaching has always held that the temples fell not merely because of foreign power but due to the mindless hatred of Jews against each other whose disunity weakened the community to the point where it became easy prey to its enemies. Israeli society, with its divisions along religious lines and divisive arguments, provides plenty of fodder for such discussions and this year, like any other, is a good time to remind all sectors of the Jewish world to try and listen to each other rather than to reflexively demonize their foes. But just as Jews should use the anniversary of the destruction of the first and second Jewish commonwealths to look inward, the day should also be a reminder that the external forces of anti-Semitism and hate that inflicted suffering in the past are far from dead in our own day.

The trouble with most discussions of sinat hinam in the contemporary Jewish world is that introspection is fairly rare among those on all sides of the disputes that do the most to exacerbate divisions within Jewry. Jews who do not consider themselves more sinned against than having sinned are unusual.

When those sectors of the Haredi community that routinely abuse and demonize those Jews who worship differently or are not observant speak of the concept, they generally refer only to the statements and actions of their non-Orthodox or secular opponents, and vice versa. Haredim consider themselves an oppressed minority fighting to preserve their way of life against secular oppression never thinking of the way they have exploited the system with regard to funding of institutions or evading Israel’s draft laws, let alone the contempt and coercion against those who do not share their beliefs. Secular and non-Orthodox Jews only see the way the Haredim manipulate the law or misbehave without stopping to think of the contempt they readily display for the observant, a trait that is shared by many American Jews.

Suffice it to say that there is plenty of room for soul searching in a Jewish world in which Haredi Jews who serve in the Israeli army are singled out for abuse by their co-religionists and where non-Orthodox American Jews regard the growing Orthodox community in Greater New York with fear and loathing. No matter where you stand in the secular/religious divide, you have something to account for and need to acknowledge the need to work for communal harmony, no matter how steep an uphill slog that cause might be.

But as much as internal divisions continue to rend the fabric of the Jewish community, it is pointless to ignore the growing spirit of intolerance and hatred against Jews and Israel that continues to rage both in the Middle East and Europe.

In much of the Arab and Muslim world, the Ramadan holiday is being observed with television blockbusters that often feature anti-Semitic themes. This year’s entry is Khaiber—a miniseries produced in Dubai and aired around the region—which depicts the destruction of the Jews of 7th century Arabia and portrays them as evil enemies of Islam that deserve their fate. But, as anyone who reads websites such as memri.org and Palestinian Media Watch (palwatch.org) knows, such anti-Semitic programming is nothing out of the ordinary as hatred for Israel and Jews and support for terrorism against them is mainstream thought, not the opinions of outliers. On the day that Jews remember their ancient temples, the Arab media continues to spew material that denies any connection between the Jewish people and their ancient homeland and capital.

Iran, a country that has promoted Holocaust denial, gets closer every day to a nuclear weapon that could help their fanatical Islamist leaders perpetrate another.

In Europe, what the U.S. State Department has termed a “rising tide” of anti-Semitism continues to grow, fed by both traditional Jew-hatred and hostility to Israel as Jews now feel themselves at risk in various parts of the continent as well as finding themselves having to defend their religious practices.

In the United States, a movement dedicated to boycotting Israel that is steeped in anti-Semitic attitudes that single out Jews and the Jewish state for prejudicial treatment also continues to grow, even if it is more marginal than its European counterparts.

The traditional reading of the Book of Lamentations on this date provides a sobering reminder of the horrors of war as well as the fruit of disunity. For Jews, it should be the starting point for discussions about how to step back from the abyss of demonization that seems to escalate with every year. But it should also serve as a wake-up call for those who think the only enemies to be seen are those from within. Mindless hatred of Jews on the part of Israel’s enemies is a growing force that cannot be ignored.

Read Less

Did Romney Exploit a Jewish Holiday?

For those who wish the Republican presidential candidate ill, there is really nothing he can do to avoid criticism. Case in point was Mitt Romney’s visit yesterday to Jerusalem. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg accuses him of being “vulgar” for showing up at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av. Predictably, Peter Beinart goes even further in the Daily Beast and accuses Romney of “misusing Judaism” to bolster his campaign.

Both are dead wrong. Nothing Romney did was in poor taste or in any way showed disrespect for Jewish sensibilities. In fact, the truth was quite the opposite. Their real problem with Romney is that what he said in Israel illustrated President Obama’s shortcomings. Romney rightly expressed a more realistic assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat than the Obama administration as well as reaffirmed his commitment to reverse the president’s policy in which the U.S. has distanced itself from Israel (at least in those years in which he is not running for re-election).

Read More

For those who wish the Republican presidential candidate ill, there is really nothing he can do to avoid criticism. Case in point was Mitt Romney’s visit yesterday to Jerusalem. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg accuses him of being “vulgar” for showing up at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av. Predictably, Peter Beinart goes even further in the Daily Beast and accuses Romney of “misusing Judaism” to bolster his campaign.

Both are dead wrong. Nothing Romney did was in poor taste or in any way showed disrespect for Jewish sensibilities. In fact, the truth was quite the opposite. Their real problem with Romney is that what he said in Israel illustrated President Obama’s shortcomings. Romney rightly expressed a more realistic assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat than the Obama administration as well as reaffirmed his commitment to reverse the president’s policy in which the U.S. has distanced itself from Israel (at least in those years in which he is not running for re-election).

Goldberg’s post has an inflammatory headline, “Temple Mount Tackiness,” which seems to imply that Romney went up to the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which is now occupied by mosques. Any visit to the Temple Mount is fraught with symbolism and controversy (think Ariel Sharon’s 2000 stroll there which was falsely represented as the second intifada). Though the place is truly the most sacred spot in Judaism, Jews are forbidden to pray there lest Muslims think they are plotting to blow up or move the mosques. But Romney did not go up there. He merely joined the throngs praying at the Wall on the anniversary of the Temples’ destruction.

Goldberg seems to think it is wrong for a candidate to go there for a photo op on that day. Had Romney and his entourage barged in and disrupted prayer services, Goldberg might have had a point. But he did not. There was no service going on there at the time, just the usual milling crowds of tourists and the faithful who can be found there on any day. Romney’s behavior was exemplary. To speak of vulgarity is absurd and says more about Goldberg’s crush on Barack Obama than it does about Romney.

More to the point, the symbolism of an American politician going to the Wall on the day that Jews remember the tragedies that have befallen them throughout history is particularly apt. Given the existential threats that still face Israel, the reaffirmation of the U.S. alliance seems to be exactly the sort of thing Jews ought to welcome.

But, of course, that reaffirmation is exactly what troubles Beinart.

Beinart is offended by Romney’s belief the United States ought not to show any public daylight between its positions and Israel. Doing so, as President Obama has done, damages the already dim hopes for peace because such actions encourage the Palestinians to become even more intransigent. Obama’s pressure on Israel has led the Palestinians to believe they don’t have to negotiate with the Jewish state because they think the U.S. will hand them Israeli concessions on a silver platter without them having to give an inch.

But, of course, Beinart doesn’t want any politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans, to show the kind of heartfelt support that Romney expressed. He wants the U.S. to run roughshod over the democratic will of the Israeli people in order to further his unrealistic vision of peace with a Palestinian people who have little interest in such a scheme.

Beinart backs up this point of view, but assuming the pose of a scholar of Judaism and Jewish history is the conceit of his laughably inept book about saving Zionism.

From his perspective, the comments of Romney and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tisha B’Av in which they noted the need to ensure that the Jews are saved from future catastrophes, are “bad Judaism.” Beinart is right to note that one of the keynotes of the observance of the ninth of Av is introspection in which Jews should learn to avoid the mindless hatred that tradition tells us caused the fall of the Temples. A cynic would note that if anyone is in need of lessons on “introspection and humility” it might be an author who presumes to preach to Israelis while demonstrating little understanding of their concerns. But leaving Beinart’s shortcomings aside, that is not the only perspective on the holiday. It is certainly not the only thing those tasked with dealing with the geo-strategic realities of the Middle East should be thinking about.

It is all well and good to say, as Beinart does, that we all have a little bit of evil within us. But according to him, this insight should lead Israelis not to obsess about the fact that much of the Muslim and Arab world still wishes to wipe them out. Even worse, he thinks that on the day that Jews contemplate the crimes and atrocities committed against them during the last three millennia, they should worry more about the sensibilities of those who are still plotting such evil. Indeed, he thinks the mere fact that Romney failed to mention the Palestinians in a speech devoted to the U.S.-Israel alliance and the need to stop Iran from making good on its genocidal threats “denied the humanity” of the Palestinians.

The most charitable thing that can be said about such an analysis is that Beinart is about as much of an expert on Judaism as he is representative of American Jewish opinion. President Obama’s election year Jewish charm offensive shows he understands the overwhelming majority of American Jews reject Beinart’s view that Israel must be saved from itself or that selective boycotts and brutal pressure should be employed to bring it to its knees so as to facilitate his vision of its future. Tisha B’Av is an apt day for Jews and all people of good will to remember the stakes in the Middle East conflict and of the need to ensure that Jerusalem never again falls to those who would destroy the Jewish people.

Read Less

Tisha B’Av and the Right of Self-Defense

Today is Tisha B’Av, the date in the Hebrew calendar on which a number of catastrophes have befallen the Jews. This is the date on which both of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Since then, other anti-Semitic powers have taken delight in launching fresh atrocities on the day, including the expulsion from Spain in 1492 to massacres during the Holocaust. It is a solemn day of fasting and one on which Jewish tradition commands us to think about the mindless and sinful hatred within the community that has often brought down calamity on the Jewish people. Such reflection is important at a time when issues and rancor divide Jews and cause them to forget that the values that should unite them are far more important than the issues on which they differ. But it would be more than foolish not to give a thought today to the still potent external threats. Though Israel is beset by many problems, there is no greater menace to the continuance of Jewish life than that posed by Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.

Thus, it was heartening today to hear thatwhile visiting the Jewish state, Mitt Romney plans to endorse Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran. Romney, who will speak tonight after the conclusion of the holiday, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, who rightly sounded a note of alarm about the failure of the sanctions belatedly enacted by the Obama administration on Iran. Though Washington has been boasting about their tough sanctions policy, today was an apt day for Netanyahu to point out their bravado was disconnected from reality.

Read More

Today is Tisha B’Av, the date in the Hebrew calendar on which a number of catastrophes have befallen the Jews. This is the date on which both of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Since then, other anti-Semitic powers have taken delight in launching fresh atrocities on the day, including the expulsion from Spain in 1492 to massacres during the Holocaust. It is a solemn day of fasting and one on which Jewish tradition commands us to think about the mindless and sinful hatred within the community that has often brought down calamity on the Jewish people. Such reflection is important at a time when issues and rancor divide Jews and cause them to forget that the values that should unite them are far more important than the issues on which they differ. But it would be more than foolish not to give a thought today to the still potent external threats. Though Israel is beset by many problems, there is no greater menace to the continuance of Jewish life than that posed by Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.

Thus, it was heartening today to hear thatwhile visiting the Jewish state, Mitt Romney plans to endorse Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran. Romney, who will speak tonight after the conclusion of the holiday, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, who rightly sounded a note of alarm about the failure of the sanctions belatedly enacted by the Obama administration on Iran. Though Washington has been boasting about their tough sanctions policy, today was an apt day for Netanyahu to point out their bravado was disconnected from reality.

The Obama administration has sounded tough on Iran but has made it clear it does not wish Israel to strike on its own. Indeed, the president has seemed to be more concerned about preventing an Israeli strike than on stopping Iran. The only accomplishment of the dead-end negotiating process on which he has placed the country’s hopes for a resolution of the problem has been to make it difficult if not impossible for Israel to act.

The reason why Obama’s sanctions and diplomacy have failed is that the Iranians don’t take him seriously. The exemptions granted to the sanctions have maintained Iran’s oil trade and will keep the regime afloat. More to the point, the ayatollahs believe the president is not only unwilling to hold them accountable, but he will shield them from Israel. The only chance to persuade the Iranians to back down on their nuclear ambitions is to convince them they will pay a terrible price if they do not. Thus, Romney’s willingness to say that Israel has a right to try to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities and that the United States will stand by them if they do sends a significant message to Tehran.

It would be far better for Israel not to be forced to act on its own against Iran. But in the absence of a credible American policy on the nuclear issue, it is Netanyahu’s responsibility to think seriously about doing so if there is no other way out of the dilemma. He understands that the point of the State of Israel is that the Jews will no longer sit and wait while their enemies plot their destruction. If necessary, his government must act to avert or at least postpone the Iranian threat. And America’s leaders should be not only acting on their own to stop Iran but backing up Israel’s right of self-defense.

While this statement will be dismissed as Romney playing politics with foreign policy, it will do more than merely make Iran’s rulers anxious. It also has the potential to aid Obama’s diplomatic efforts. The ayatollahs must now realize that if Romney is elected all bets are off when it comes to their heretofore successful strategy of dealing with the West. For years, they have been able to talk and lie their way through the crisis because they understood the Obama administration was only interested in kicking the can down the road to avoid having to take action. But unless the Iranians are sure Obama will be re-elected, they have to consider the possibility that they must try and cut a deal now with Obama (and therefore boost his chances of winning) or be left to face a far less accommodating new president next year.

Given the ideological premise of their nuclear ambition, it is to be doubted that anything, even the threat of having to face Romney and Netanyahu in January, can convince Iran to back down. But as Jews remember their past today, let us hope that the rulers of Tehran, who have boasted of their desire to eliminate the State of Israel and seek the means to do so, will listen to what Romney said and draw the appropriate conclusion. On this day, it is important that those who are intent on creating new tragedies understand that this time, the Jews will strike first.

Read Less

Netanyahu Urges Romney Tisha B’Av Visit

At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol confirms new details of Mitt Romney’s upcoming visit to Israel:

During discussions about the trip over the last month, advisers to Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the appropriateness of a Romney visit to Israel on this date [Tisha B'Av]. But Netanyahu, the Weekly Standard has confirmed from top aides in Jerusalem and Boston, encouraged Romney to be in Jerusalem on this solemn day, one that recalls the tragedies of Jewish history and calls to mind current threats to the Jewish people.

Indeed, the Weekly Standard can report that Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu have invited the Romneys to join them for the traditional meal breaking the fast following sundown after Tisha B’Av. This gesture suggests that what may have started out as a routine candidate touchdown in Israel has become a more serious and significant moment for both Netanyahu and Romney.

Read More

At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol confirms new details of Mitt Romney’s upcoming visit to Israel:

During discussions about the trip over the last month, advisers to Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the appropriateness of a Romney visit to Israel on this date [Tisha B'Av]. But Netanyahu, the Weekly Standard has confirmed from top aides in Jerusalem and Boston, encouraged Romney to be in Jerusalem on this solemn day, one that recalls the tragedies of Jewish history and calls to mind current threats to the Jewish people.

Indeed, the Weekly Standard can report that Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu have invited the Romneys to join them for the traditional meal breaking the fast following sundown after Tisha B’Av. This gesture suggests that what may have started out as a routine candidate touchdown in Israel has become a more serious and significant moment for both Netanyahu and Romney.

Some media reports criticized Mitt Romney for scheduling a Jerusalem fundraising event shortly after the conclusion of Tisha B’Av, the day of Jewish mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. But it sounds like the event will now be postponed due to Romney’s dinner with Netanyahu.

Romney could not have chosen a more important and symbolic time to visit Israel this summer. Tisha B’Av and the nine days leading up to it is a time of mourning not just for the temples, but for all the historical atrocities that have befallen the Jewish people on that date, from the Alhambra Decree issued in Spain in 1492 to the deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to a Nazi extermination camp. Breaking the fast with Netanyahu and his wife will add to the weightiness of Romney’s visit. Politically, it will also sharpen the contrast between Romney and President Obama — it’s hard to imagine Netanyahu and Obama sitting down for any meal together, let alone a meal as intimate and meaningful as this one.

UPDATE: For those interested in additional historical context on Tisha B’av, Rabbi Josh Yuter tweets at me:

Interesting post on Romney’s Israel speech – One quibble, not as much happened on 9Av as many believe

Click the last link to read Rabbi Yuter disputing some common assumptions about Tisha B’av.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.