Over one hundred thousand Jews flooded the Kotel (Western Wall) Plaza on Monday night and Tuesday to say traditional Tisha B'Av lamentations for the loss of the First and Second Jerusalem Temples. Thousands encircled the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, as well, to mark the day of mourning.

Masses gather in the Kotel Plaza seated on the floor and low stools to mourn the destruction of the Jerusalem Temples

Many sleep the night on the stone floor on the Kotel Plaza as an expression of mourning for the destroyed Temples.
Midnight at the Kotel: after reciting Lamentations, the children go to sleep, and the father stays up studying ancient texts about the temple destruction.

Police prevented a group of Jews led by activists Noam Federman and Itamar Ben Gvir from praying at a gate leading up to the Temple Mount. The two are leaders in the struggle for the right for Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. Noam Federman was arrested.

The ninth of Av this year marks 1,939 years since the Roman conquest.

Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of Av in the Hebrew calendar, is a sundown-to-sundown day of fasting and mourning marking the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, the subsequent exile from the Land of Israel, as well as other historical calamities that befell the Jewish People on the same date. Traditional rabbinical literature links the ninth of Av date with the day that the spies in the Biblical account brought back their negative report of the Land of Israel, which the children of Israel believed and over which they wept on this day.

Jewish tradition treats Tisha B'Av as one of the most severe of fast days, in that it lasts just over 24 hours and entails stringencies of behavior akin to those observed by mourners. In fact, the rabbis enacted a prohibition of the study of Torah on Tisha B'Av, as such learning is considered too joyful an activity for this day of distress over the destruction of the Temple and the loss of Jewish sovereignty.

In keeping with an old Jerusalem custom, thousands attended a march around the Old City walls sponsored by the Women In Green organization. Participants gathered at City Hall near the Old City, and proceeded to march around the walls to Dung Gate and the Western Wall.

Waiting for the March around the Old City to begin, participants gather at City Hall on Tisha B'Av night and sit on the ground or low stools as a sign of mourning for the Temples' destruction.
March participants gather at City Hall

Among the special prayers of the day are the reading of the scroll of Eicha (Lamentations) and a recitation of dirges memorializing the Jewish victims of Roman, Babylonian and other persecutions through the ages. Since World War II, many communities include additional dirges composed in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

The ninth of Av this year marks 1,939 years since the Roman conquest and destruction of the Second Temple. The Temple was the symbol of continuing Jewish national life in the Land of Israel and its destruction marked the end of a Jewish revolt against foreign, in this case, Roman, domination.

Young children join the Tisha B'Av march around the Old City.
Marchers progress towards the Old City (Old City walls just behind palm trees)
The march goes past the Shechem (AKA Damascus) Gate of the Old City
The Shechem Gate

Following their hard-won victory over the Jewish rebels, the Romans renamed Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina," and the Land of Israel, then known as Judea, they renamed "Paelestina," in an effort to erase the Jewish connection with the area. It is from this imperial effort at revisionist history that the term "Palestine" for the region roughly between Iraq and the Mediterranean Sea is derived.

A Proposed Addition to the Liturgy
A Jerusalem Talmudic institute has published an additional Tisha B'Av dirge (kina) commemorating the destruction of the Jewish towns of Gaza and northern Samaria. The destruction of the towns, as part of the Disengagement operation, began the day after Tisha B'Av in 2005.

"This is religious poetry that truly speaks from the heart. It eloquently captures the feelings of the day, of both the destruction of our Holy Temple and the holy communities of Gush Katif and northern Samaria," says Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, the head of Machon Shiloh.

The traditional Tisha B'Av march proceeds along the Old City walls towards the Flower Gate
Mounted police accompany the Tisha B'Av march
A Tisha B'Av poetry reading is featured during a break at the Lion's Gate of the Old City
At Lion's Gate. Sign reads: "For Jerusalem's sake, i will not be silent."
The road leading up to Lion's Gate (in the background at end of road)
A policeman at an Arab cemetery build adjacent to the Old City walls guards the marches as they pass below

"Many words in the dirge have double meanings and reflect the bitterness caused by this modern tragedy," Rabbi Bar-Hayim explained. "Rabbi [Yehoshua] Buch has expended great effort to adhere to the historical style of the traditional dirge. All words of his dirge - except for one - are found in the Hebrew Bible, although grammar may have necessitated some slight changes. My only regret is that Rabbi Buch's beautiful poetry reflects our current state of mourning rather than celebration. I look forward to the day when we will be able to publish poetry celebrating the rebuilding of the destroyed communities and our Holy Temple."

The dirge, composed by Rabbi Buch, can be downloaded from the Machon Shiloh website.

Marching beneath Old City walls with Mount of Olives in background (picture taken with flash and long exposure)
Marches at the southern walls of Jerusalem. Arab mosque on Temple Mount in background.

Tisha B'Av At Kever Rachel

Three buses full of English-speaking adults and students headed to Kever Rachel, the Tomb of the Matriarch Rachel, to begin the fast of the 9th of Av. The Jewish holy site is located just outside Jerusalem, on the northern tip of Bethlehem.

The trip was the joint project of Rachel's Children Reclamation Foundation, Kumah, and Yaavneh Olami.

Some 150 Jews Begin the Tisha B'Av at the Tomb of Rachel, south of Jerusalem
Photo: Yishai Fleisher
The Entrance to Kever Rachel
Photo: Yishai Fleisher
Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute addresses the English-speakers at Kever Rachel
Photo: Yishai Fleisher
Yishai Fleisher, the event organizer was pleased with the turn out: "Tisha b'Av is centered around Jerusalem and the Temple, but is also a day to mourn the exile - and no one cries more about the exile than our Matriarch Rachel - that's why we felt it was an opportune moment to visit her, to cry with her, and to comfort her saying: 'we are coming back!'"
Tisha B'Av in Homesh
On Tuesday morning, about 100 activists succeeded in reaching the destroyed northern Samaria town of Homesh. The Homesh First movement said the activists arrived overnight. They read the book of Lamentations and recited the Tisha B'Av dirges upon the ruins of the Homesh synagogue.

Homesh was one of 4 Jewish towns in northern Samaria destroyed by the Ariel Sharon government in the 2005 Disengagement and Expulsion operation. The site of Homesh remains under IDF military control.

To see live video footage from the Kotel, click here.

All pictures by Arutz Sheva photojournalist Josh Shamsi