Monday, July 23, 2007

Three Short Intentions to Have in Mind When Observing Tisha B'Av

Tonight starts the fast of the Ninth of Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the First Temple by the Bablylonians. All sorts of bad things happened to the Jews on this day, according to rabbinic Jewish tradition. It is a day of national mourning and soul-searching.

Three short intentions (kavvanot) to have in mind when you are observing this day.

1. When you pray for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, make that a spiritual rather than a physical rebuilding. Jerusalem today is overbuilt and overdeveloped by a combination of market factors, nationalist ideology, and greed. Patch after patch of green space has been rezoned for multi-dweller buildings. Unless you want to curse the city, don't pray for erecting buildings.

2. When you think of "Jerusalem in her ruins" have in mind Arab Jerusalem, as brilliantly described in the latest book by Hillel Cohen: "The Marketplace is Empty": The Rise and Fall of Arab Jerusalem 1967-2007 (Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2007 (Hebrew). Cohen describes the decline of a once bustling and vibrant polis, thanks to mostly (but not exclusively) Israel's policies since the "reunification" in 1967. And also have in mind the apartheid wall/security fence that is choking the Arab neighborhoods.

3. Finally, some hope: when you think of rebuilding the Temple, think not of some building on the Temple Mount or Haram ash-Sharif, but of all those houses rebuilt by the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), most recently, the renovation of Issa Amro's house in the Tel Romeida section of Hebrew. A great yashar koah (congratulations) to all the people involved in that melekhet mitzvah (commanded labor), especially ICAHD and Bene Avraham

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