Thousands at Annual Tisha B’Av
Sovereignty was the theme of the annual Tisha B’Av Walk in which thousands participated for the 24th time, thousands of Jews took part in the tradition of walking around the walls of the Old City, concluding with an assembly at the Lions Gate joined by Minister Elkin, Deputy Minister Ben Dahan and other public figures.
Photos: Gershon Ellinson
This year as well, thousands of Jews from all parts of the Land gathered to take part in the traditional march on the eve of Tisha ‘Av around the walls of the old city in Jerusalem. The event, held under the auspices of Women in Green for the 24th time, is a revival of an ancient tradition of walking around the city on the eve of the fast.
It began with a joint, mass reading of the Scroll of Lamentations in Gan Ha’Atzma’ut (Independence Park), which is located in the heart of Jerusalem followed by words of publicist Caroline Glick:
“The Scroll of Lamentations relates the suffering of our People during the period of the exile. However, since the establishment of the state, it is difficult for us to mourn as we did previously. Each year, things get better and we are stronger. This is the first year that the American Embassy is in Jerusalem”, Glick said, noting the location where the march began, opposite the American Consulate. “Something good is happening here and it is happening because we feel the miracle and we feel that we are coming closer to redemption. We must mourn for what we have lost, but we must also bear in mind the building, every day, every year and every decade. We will mourn as we march, but we do so also with hope, as those who are approaching ever closer to their goal”.
Tila Falic Levi, a leader of the younger generation in the Jewish community of Miami and an Israel hasbara activist in the diaspora, also spoke about the miracle that is making Jerusalem more beautiful than ever – a miracle that receives special emphasis as we read of the horror described in the Scroll of Lamentations. “We cannot view Israel as only the past but also the present and future. The Jewish People is thriving. The Jewish people are thriving. Medinat Israel is thriving. 70 years of strength, of Torah, of kibbutz galuyot. These are miracles that we are living on a daily basis. We are experiencing the miracle of “the many delivered into the hands of the few” We have shown the world, as Rav Soloveitchik said, that Jewish Blood is not cheap.
And she continued, stating that “But with these miracles come responsibility. Yehoshua Bin-nun, our first Zionist leader was commanded by Hashem not only to conquer the land but we must possess the land. That is why we are here tonight, why we are marching, why we are still fasting on Tisha Bav and haven’t yet made Tisha Bav a day of celebration as the prophecy told us it will one day be. We have our land but we must possess the land. Take pride in our land, protect our land, and internalize our land. We are not there yet. We are living in miraculous times but we do not yet have the sovereignty that we have prayed for and continue to pray for”.
Falic Levi concluded her words with a reference from one of the letters of Yoni Netanyahu, obm, a letter that he wrote after a flight over Jerusalem: “When I saw the country from the plane I felt a twinge in my heart, Jerusalem is more beautiful than ever. Perhaps I am a bit sentimental because I haven’t seen her for so long. Despite everything that’s wrong here and G–d Know there are many faults and evils, it’s our country and I love her as I always have and I always will”.
The participants of the walk walked while carrying Israeli flags and throughout the march, they heard historical information from historian Aryeh Klein, who highlighted the link between Jerusalem’s distant past in the days of its destruction, to the days of the rebirth of Zion and the return of the People to its city in the Six Day War.
The participants of the walk gathered at the Lions Gate where a number of public figures spoke, following words of welcome by Yehudit Katsover, co-chair of the Sovereignty Movement founded by Women in Green, who related to the situation in which life in the diaspora habituated the People of Israel to living without sovereignty, a situation that is changing with the People’s return to its Land. However, we must remember that although “Jerusalem is in our hands, we must complete our sovereignty over it and over all parts of the Land of Israel. Tonight, we are making a statement about our sovereignty with this march around the city and with the saying ‘you are all mine, Jerusalem. You are beautiful and flawless’”.
The first of the speakers was Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ze’ev Elkin, who has participated in the Tisha B’Av eve march in the past. Elkin said that he came to the march and the assembly from a reading of the scroll in Ir David, “the location of the palaces where David and the Davidic Kings resided, where the last of the city’s defenders were executed during the destruction of the Temple. We have returned to our Land and to Jerusalem, we have built up Jerusalem and returned to all of its parts and we will remain in all of its parts. Nothing can divide Jerusalem – the united and eternal capital of the Jewish People”, declared Minister Elkin, to enthusiastic applause, and brought up the issue of the spies, which was mentioned in the weekly Torah portion, from which is derived the appropriate type of leadership for the People, “leadership that must lead forward, leadership that sees the entire picture, leadership that lives with faith in the phrase ‘Let us ascend, for we surely shall accomplish it’. The fact that the march takes place around the Old City says that the work is not yet completed and that there is much more to do. To be able to say ‘We have returned’ and ‘renew our days as of old’, the march must enter the Old City, continue to the Western Wall and to the direction of the Temple Mount, as it was in ancient days”.
Minister Elkin said that these days a road of vast proportions is being excavated, which was the main artery for those who were making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This road will soon be open to the public and “With the Almighty’s help, we will renew our days as of old, when we will be able to ascend on those same stones that were trod by the Jews on their way to the Temple Mount thousands of years ago. This will happen when we are resolute about our sovereignty over this city and over the entire Land”.
Rav Baruch Efrati, head of the Derech Emuna rabbinic group, noted in his speech the tragedy of isolation, which was chosen to be the symbol of the destruction, with the words ‘How she sat solitary’. According to him, isolation is the worst tragedy because he who sits in isolation cannot apply his sovereignty, and causeless hatred is what brings man to be isolated and alienated from his fellow. “In contrast to this isolation, we are all together now, we are returning to this place not as a group of individuals but as the State of Israel and the kingdom of Israel”. Rav Efrati also noted the need to remember what is still lacking, along with giving thanks for what there is, for the state and the army. According to him, we must guard against the sense that to have Israeli police and the Israeli army is enough for us, so that we forget the Temple Mount, and forget the Kingdom of David. “The State of Israel remembers where we are headed, to the Temple on Har Moriah, to sovereignty of the kingdom over all the cities”, he declared.
Deputy Mayor of the City of Jerusalem, Dov Kalmanovich, spoke to the many participants of the walk about the importance of the walk and our presence in all of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods. “Sovereignty in Jerusalem does not only entail police and the army, and not only legislation and declarations. Sovereignty is you, the walkers, in the streets, demonstrating our presence. This is sovereignty. If we were in every neighborhood in Jerusalem, there would be no argument and there would be no one who did not have Jerusalem in his heart”. Kalmanovich emphasized that the presence of masses of walkers gives a tailwind to elected representatives and public figures in their activities in the municipality and in the various institutions.
Atty. Marc Zell, chairman of the Republican Party in Israel, spoke in English, expressing thanks to the U.S. administration for its support for a united Jerusalem and for transferring the embassy. Later, he related to the importance of the Nationality Law and cited the first clauses of the law, clauses that relate to the rights of the People of Israel to the Land of Israel. “With all due respect to all of our friends, especially in Washington, we are the ones who are responsible for our fate in the Land of Israel, and if we want to rule and achieve full sovereignty, we must determine our priorities and decide what we want as a People. We cannot depend on anyone to do the work for us”.
The chairman of Im Tirzu, Matan Peleg, also participated in the walk and in his speech, he stated that “The People of Israel is the only people in the annals of history where a man swears a territorial oath at his wedding ceremony, and at his peak moment of personal love he breaks a glass in memory of the destruction and builds a Jewish home in order to create a future and make an implicit promise to return”. Peleg says that this memory, which has been preserved throughout the generations, is a guarantee for the future in which indeed, ‘our days will be renewed, as of old’ and there will be true sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
The final speaker at the assembly was Deputy Minister of Defense MK Rav Eli Ben Dahan, who noted the connection between Shabbat and Tisha b’Av, a connection that also occurred when the sages decided that the fast of Tisha b’Av would be postponed because of Shabbat. “The sages’ decision teaches us that when there is an encounter between good and evil, the good wins. When there is a possibility to postpone the fast we postpone it. The People of Israel is returning to its Land, to Jerusalem, and to Judea and Samaria. No force in the world will prevent the People of Israel from returning to its Land”. Rav Ben Dahan added that “After 1950 years since the destruction of the Second Temple, we declare that soon, in our days, we will be able to pray on the Temple Mount and we will have the privilege to see the Temple standing on its foundations and thus, we will see Judea and Samaria joining the Land of Israel as one unit. And next year we will see it with our own eyes”.
A film produced especially for the event, together with MK Yehuda Glick, was shown at the assembly. The film tells the story of a coin that connects Jerusalem’s past with the present (VIDEO)
The event concluded with a group singing of “Ani ma’amin” and Hatikva, led by cantor Simon Cohen and then the people continued the walk and dispersed to the Western Wall Plaza, where they assembled to say kinot.
The co-chairwomen of Women in Green, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, sum up the event, stating that the walk and the massive response to it constitute more evidence for the sovereignty of the People of Israel in the city of its eternal capital, sovereignty that has gained significant strength in the past year with the transfer of embassies, led by the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
The two women stress the continuing and strengthening cooperation with the police of the district of Jerusalem and its directors, “who were not intimidated by threats of the Palestinian Authority against the walk and allowed the event to take place as planned”. The two women mention this in light of the PA’s demand that the international community mobilize and prevent the walk since it was an act that strengthened Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. “The thousands that walked with us tonight gave a Jewish and Zionist response to the PA’s threats and it was another clear step on the way to Israeli sovereignty over all parts of our Land”.
Yehudit Katsover & Nadia Matar
The Sovereignty Movement founded by Women in Green