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It may have been almost 2000 years since the Roman Empire destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD and even more since the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple but a growing movement of Jews is determined to see the Temple rebuilt and once again take its place at the center of Jerusalem.
This past weekend saw thousands of Israelis from across the country converge on the capital to participate in the Fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av), the day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples in Jerusalem which took place on this same day centuries apart.
Events to commemorate the day of mourning include gathering at the Western Wall as well as marching around the walls of the Old City and reading from the Book of Lamentations. Traditional customs also include not greeting one another during the fast, refraining from studying Torah, except for certain selections, sitting on low chairs until noon, refrain from bathing, leather footwear, cosmetics and intimate relations - all this a culmination of three weeks of keeping various customs that symbolize mourning and even more stringent ones during the nine days leading to the fast.
The Ninth of Av is a date marked by tragedy in Jewish history in addition to the destruction of the first and second Temples. Several other terrible events in Jewish history occurred on this date:
- The decree in Numbers 13 and 14 that they would not be allowed to enter the promised land until the entire generation had died out due to unbelief and murmuring against the Lord.
- The Bar Kokhbah Revolt was crushed resulting in the plowing of Jerusalem and the killing of 600,000 Jews by the Roman Empire
- The expulsion of the Jews from Britain in 1290
- The expulsion of the Jews of Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492
- World War I erupted in 1914, causing untold suffering to the Jews of Europe and Palestine and setting the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.
- Tisha B'Av of 2005, the expulsion of 9,000 Jews from the region of Gaza by Israel's own government. This has resulted in Hamas creating a missile launching area that has seen thousands of missiles and rockets fired at Israeli civilians and consequently leading to three IDF operations...with more expected.
Speeches by many prominent Rabbis at rallies across Jerusalem were directed not only toward a sense of mourning for the past, but looking to the hope of redemption and the importance of the future, including the rebuilding of the Temple.
Rabbi Ben-Dahan spoke of the centrality of Israel's capital to the Jewish nation."We aren't the only ones who know this, our enemies know it too. There is a reason [Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas] [a.k.a. Abu Mazen] claims that the Temple in Jerusalem never existed; there's a reason why he makes sure every archeological discovery found linking the Jewish people to the Temple Mount will disappear.
He understands that the Temple Mount is the beating heart of the Jewish people. The Temple Mount and the Temple are the heart of the nation of Israel, and without a heart there is no body."
Rabbi Ben-Dahan added that the rebuilding of Jerusalem would not be complete until the Temple, too, is rebuilt and the Temple Mount redeemed."We are all here to declare that we have returned to Jerusalem and God-willing we will prepare the hearts of the people to return to the Temple Mount as well and to rebuild the Temple. We aren't embarrassed to say it: We want to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount."
MK Yehuda Glick, a notable Temple Mount activist, said the time had come to replace mourning with action. "For 2,000 years we lived out the verse in the Book of Lamentations 'you shall surely weep at night'. No more! We must stop weeping and start to take action.
The founders of the Zionist movement taught us that the Exile was not just a punishment but a sin as well. Today we are in a different place. Anyone who reads the Book of Lamentations cannot possibly think we are still there in that situation. We are not under siege and we are not isolated."
Rabbi Chaim Richman, International Director of the Temple Institute, declared: "Everyone that has ever attended a Jewish wedding knows that we break a glass, but how many internalize the message.
The broken glass isn't supposed to let guests know when to shout 'mazal tov', on the contrary it is a catalyst to move people into a new level of consciousness that fuses mourning with celebration - giving hope for a time in which we will finally rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Every single bridegroom announces the proclamation that he and his future household will not forget Jerusalem, because it is incumbent on everyone of us, at all times to prepare for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. With the work of the Temple Institute over the last three decades, preparation for the Temple is no longer a dream, it's a reality, in which everyone can play a part".
In the run up to the annual commemoration of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Temple Institute has released a video proposing the rebuilding of the third Temple. The video uses the metaphor of a glass, which is broken as part of the Jewish wedding ceremony, to signify that the celebration is incomplete so long as the Temple isn't rebuilt.
Despite the 2000-year-old fast and palpable longing for the Temple to be rebuilt on Judaism's holiest site on Mount Moriah, UNESCO and the EU are entertaining proposals to recognize it as a Muslim site, ignoring all of the above. Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold blasted the proposal, saying, it "deliberately ignores the historical connection between the Jewish people and their ancient capital".
It is told that the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was walking down a street one night and saw a darkened synagogue lit by several candles and people lamenting while sitting on the floor.
Wondering what terrible catastrophe could have befallen them, he asked and was told they were mourning the destruction of their Holy Temple in Jerusalem. He was sure this was a recent tragedy and upon hearing that it had occurred almost two millennia earlier, is said to have remarked: "A people who mourns their Temple for thousands of years will also live to see it rebuilt."