Hamas flag on Temple Mount
Hamas flag on Temple MountFlash 90

Monday marks the advent of Tisha B'Av, the Fast of the Ninth Day of the Hebrew month of Av, commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people from their homeland. This year marks 1,946 years since the destruction of the Second Temple by Roman soldiers in 70 CE, who razed Jerusalem and murdered millions of Jews in order to solidify their rule over the Land of Israel.

The Ninth of Av concludes a mourning period that commenced three weeks ago, on the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which marked the first stages of the occupation and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the Second Temple period, and by the Babylonians in the First Temple. The days are spend in introspection and efforts to increase loving-kindness between Jews, to correct the moral and social failings that are seen as the chief reasons behind G-d's Decision to allow the Romans to exile the Jews.

This year, the period has also been spent in a fight against Hamas; Operation Protective Edge's air campaign preceded the 17th of Tammuz by just a few days, and with Tisha B'Av about to begin, the war in Gaza shows no sign of calming down. By Monday afternoon, Hamas had fired about 80 rockets at Israel, despite and Israeli-declared humanitarian cease-fire.

The “Three Weeks” period between the 17th of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av is generally considered as an "inauspicious" time, and observant Jews generally avoid court cases, business deals, parties, vacations, and the like. No eating is permitted for the 24-hour period of the fast from sundown Monday to sundown Tuesday, and bathing, hair-cuts, wearing leather shoes (seen as more comfortable) and sexual relations are all prohibited as well, among other things. Torah learning is also largely proscribed, and Jews generally spend the day reading the Book of Eicha, written by the Prophet Jeremiah after the destruction of the First Temple, and reciting Kinot, elegies that describe the suffering, death and destruction Jews faced in exile, whether in Christian or Arab lands.

Many community events are held on this day, with groups getting together to discuss the Jewish future. Tens of thousands gather at the Kotel, mourning the fact that the Temple Mount is still under the control of non-Jews. After two terror attacks in Jerusalem Monday afternoon, police said they would be out in force throughout Tisha B'Av to ensure the safety of Jews visiting the Kotel.

On Monday night, groups will take part in the traditional march around the walls of the Old City, to express the Jewish yearning for the rebuilding of the Temple.

The route of the march will be from the New Gate to the Damascus Gate, from there to the Flowers Gate and onward to the Lion's Gate. Special speakers will be appearing at the Lion's Gate, including Minister of Building and Housing, Uri Ariel, Head of the Samaria Regional Council, Gershon Mesika, Ariyeh Eldad, Head of Professors for a Strong Israel, and Daniel Luria, of the Ateret Cohanim organization. The march will end at the Dung Gate near the Kotel (Western Wall). All are invited to bring family, friends, a copy of Eicha, and Israeli flags. The event has been approved by the Israeli Police.