Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, has seen an extraordinary catalogue of disasters. Whatever the reason may be, this particular date in the Jewish calendar has witnessed many atrocities and calamities for the Jewish people.
But this year, we see chinks of light through the darkness of two of the historical disasters that happened on Tisha B’Av:
The walls of Jerusalem were breached in 586 BC, leading to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people at the hands of the Babylonians. This happened on 9th Av.
The Jewish people were forcibly expelled from country after country, especially around the time of the Middle Ages, even by countries that are “Christian”. Notably, they were expelled from England in the year 1290, on 9th Av.
Remnant: Section of the ancient city wall discovered – still standing!
Remarkably, just in time for the 9th Av which falls on July 17th-18th this year in 2021, parts of the ancient city wall have been discovered – in tact! The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the exciting find of a section of the wall that was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
“This newly found extant section of the eastern city wall, connected to two previously excavated and documented sections, means that potentially the entire length of the eastern border was not in fact torn down by the conquering Babylonians. With this discovery, archaeologists are now able to reconstruct the run of the wall that encircled the ancient Kingdom of Judah capital on the eve of its destruction.” (Times of Israel1)
The untouched section of the broken wall has remained standing for all these years. It reminds us of the concept of a remnant that will not bow and continues to stand and endure while calamity and disaster is all around.
Remorse: Apology and repentance from the Church of England
Again, just ahead of Tisha B’Av this year, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a public apology on behalf of the church for the expulsion of Jewish people from England, along with many other atrocities committed by the church.
Church laws in England forced Jewish people to wear “a badge of shame”, a precursor to the yellow star of the Nazis, to distinguish them from Christians and prevent anyone marrying a Jewish person by mistake. The church also disqualified Jewish people from holding public office, and finally, on 9th Av 1290, Jewish people were banned entirely from living in England until the year 1657. It is timely that just in time for Tisha B’Av, a representative of the British church would offer their repentance.
“There is a long history of medieval anti-Judaism and antisemitism in this country that is largely unknown but is very important and still leaves a legacy today. It is always welcome that the church should recognise this. The most important part is the sense of solidarity it will give to the Jewish community at a time when antisemitism is rising.”
(Dave Rich, director of policy at the Community Security Trust, which monitors antisemitic incidents, The Times2)
Justin Welby has spoken in the past about the antisemitism that has been deeply entrenched in the church, but now that The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism found antisemitic attacks increased in the UK by 400%, it’s more important than ever.
God is always at work in the darkest of places, and this year’s Tisha B’Av we see two signs of hope right on time the Jewish day of mourning.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
- Times of Israel, First Temple-era walls, razed in biblical account, found unbreached in Jerusalem, Amanda Borschel-Dan, 14 July 2021
- The Times, Anglican Church repents for antisemitism in the 13th century, Kaya Burgess, Religious Affairs Correspondent, 13 July 2021