Tonight at sundown begins Tisha B’av — the ninth of Av — the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar. It was on this day on the calendar (some 500 years apart) that the two Temples were destroyed and that other calamities befell us. We adopt the garb and behavior of mourning, sitting on the floor and reciting Lamentations.
But, this said, it is not a purely sad day. In fact, the day lightens as it proceeds.
During the day, we ask what we did to bring the calamities upon ourselves — we ask how the behavior of the Jewish people resulted in the destruction of the Temples; we learn about causeless hatred and idle gossip.
This year especially, the relevance of all of this to our current situation is stunning. We contemplate the disaster that we are on the edge of bringing upon ourselves, and it cuts like a knife.
But the message of Tisha B’av is also one of hope . We are taught that from the lessons of our failings we have an opportunity improve ourselves — and that the Almighty believes we have the potential to raise ourselves up. It would seem that we need to go way down before we can come up. We must focus now on lifting ourselves high.
We are taught that the Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’av.
Tony Blair is in the area and will be spending three days here on this, his first trip since accepting his new Quartet assignment to work on PA economic reform and strengthening of PA governmental institutions. He may set up shop in Government House, in Jerusalem, from which the British ruled during Mandate days.
He has gone to Jordan for meetings first , will then meet with a host of Israeli officials and move on to Ramallah to meet with PA officials.
Blair has already expressed the desire to expand his mandate to include involvement in peace negotiations, thus joining the legions who have approached this area with unrealistic expectations. Hamas is itching to talk with him, but Israel has advised him to steer clear.
There is in Judea and Samaria a terrorist offshoot of Fatah known as Martyr Abu Ammar Brigades. Their leader has declared loyalty to Fatah and Fatah’s leaders, but there is yet another sign of their connection to Fatah: Abu Ammar was the epithet of Yasser Arafat. (Though I don’t know when he became a "martyr." ) At any rate, the Abu Ammar Martyrs Brigades is refusing to turn in its weapons or renounce violence against Israel.
What I find just as interesting as this is the comment made by Maan, the Palestinian news service that announced this fact. They stated that this refusal occurred following "the declaration of the main military wing of Fatah, the Al Aksa Brigades, last Sunday in which the fighters abandoned the armed struggle against Israel." This, for me, is telling: An agency that claims to be "promoting understanding of the Palestinian situation" looks askance at the abandoning of weapons.
The news, as most of you are undoubtedly aware , is full of reports of renewed al-Qaida strength in Pakistan, with the threat of terrorist attacks against the US increased.
From the perspective here in Israel, this news has a particular relevance: There are reports, coming out of Israel, that Saudi Arabia has backed out of supporting the "peace plan" it had originally proposed, out of fear of terrorist attacks from al-Qaida, and has thrown the ball to an alarmed King Abdullah of Jordan.
Apparently Saudi Arabia has not indicated it will attend the conference — intended to support Fatah — that was announced by Bush recently, and which Egypt and Jordan have said they will attend. Saudi Arabia is instead standing by its support for the Palestinian unity government it helped foster and would like now to reinvigorate.
What further complicates this situation is a reported fear Saudi Arabia has of arousing the ire of Iran in this context (and yes, Shiite Iran does have connections with Sunni al-Qaida).