Israel Stories

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Time To Cry

Traditionally this quote from Kohelet refers to Tisha B'Av. On Tisha B'Av we mourn the destruction of both temples and all subsequent Jewish tragedies, including expulsions, pogroms, mass killings and of course the ultimate in human darkness, the holocaust. Now I consider myself a religious Jew, a committed Jew and a Jew who understands the implications of our people losing sovereignty of Israel and the subsequent exile the majority of our people find themselves in today. Some in comfortable exile, prospering and assimilating in the most cultured nations of the world, and some in countries where they undergo daily suffering because of their religion, their shuls being firebombed and their cemeteries being vandalized. Even their governments remaining silent while in Parliament anti-Semitism is politically acceptable. Despite the fact that the world around us hasn’t changed in 2000 years, despite the fact that another holocaust could happen, and don't anybody dare say it couldn’t happen again, I have never cried on Tisha B'Av.

Its hard to cry. After a visit to Yad Vashem it gets easier. After visiting Poland you feel obligated. But we shouldn’t need these outside stimulants. Why can't we internalize what’s happened, and is happening, and genuinely cry.

So I'll tell when I cried, when it all suddenly became clear. When for the first time I understood Tisha B'av, Yom Hashoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Remembrance Day). Last year on Yom Hazikaron I found myself in the Old City of Jerusalem with my eldest daughter Ora. Ora was then 3 years old, if you asked her she would have told you tell you 3 years, 4 months and a few days.

Standing vigil by the Kotel (Western Wall) stood two soldiers either side of a flame of remembrance, a flag behind them stood at half mast. Ora is exceptionally observant, a genius her Saba and Savta (on both sides) would say. Ora asked me why the flag wasn’t at the top of the pole. She asked me why there was a fire and why the soldiers were standing, not moving and looking very serious. I started to explain to her that this was a very special day. A very sad day, when we remember all those people, who are no longer here but helped to create our country. I said the flag was very sad as well and couldn’t stand up properly and the soldiers were there to remind people that although lots of people were lost, there are people here who remember them take their places. She asked me how many people are not here anymore. I told her to start counting the stones on the Kotel. We got to about 20, then I said she would have to count all the stones on the wall and then all the stones on the other wall behind us, then all the stones on all the buildings. When she got to 21, 000 she could take a break, that’s how many soldiers, police and ordinary people are not here anymore. That’s how many were lost so we could stand here together and count all those stones. I told her she couldn’t stop at 21000 because we have to remember all the people who wished to be here and couldn’t come. She asked me how many, so I said every stone in Jerusalem, every stone in Israel is there to help us remember another person. Then she asked me a final question, Daddy why are you crying?


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