Posted by: Steve Coplan | August 3, 2006

Tisha B’Av

The Ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av) starting tonight is a fast day that marks the destruction of both First and Second Temples as well as subsequent calamitious events in Jewish history like the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and the Holocaust. The texts from the Talmud that discuss the events leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple — which gave rise to rabbinic Judaism and the collation of the Oral Law as well as formed the backdrop to Jesus’ teaching – emphasize the disunity of the Jewish people as the cause. (A more accessible version of the Talmudic text is available here). The Jewish revolt of 66 AD against the might of the Roman Empire and its last holdouts on Masada are important elements in the mythology of the Israeli military. Still, Tisha B’Av has never taken on any signifigance in terms of secular Israeli culture.

Obviously, the day comes at a point when Israel’s military actions that were initiated in legitimate self defense have created a humanitarian crisis and served to isolate Israel. Unfortunately, the provocation and not the repercussions of the response continue to remain the focus of the Israeli government and its supporters as a whole. Paul Krugman’s op-ed on Monday is probably the most cogent view on the conflict that I’ve seen. It’s basically a flawed strategy that has much in common with the hotheaded Zealots mentioned disparagingly in the Talmudic texts.  As my despondency about the situation deepens, my only hope is that it will finally become clear that the current status quo and outright rejection of diplomacy will be seen as untenable, and bring about a shift in the Israeli mentality.   And as for those that believe that the UN’s credibility and effectiveness is undermined by being late in the game, there are various other distractions the body is dealing with such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur.

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