Thousands of marchers from all across Israel participated in the 22nd annual walk around the walls of the old city of Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av night, Saturday, organized by Women in Green. This year the walk, which began following the traditional reading of the scroll of Lamentations at the Independence Park in downtown Jerusalem, was focused on Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. The marchers circled the ancient walls carrying Israeli flags, accompanied by police.
The march was concluded with a rally that began with a rousing speech by Women in Green co-founders Yehudit Katsover and Nadia matar. Katsover asked why did the 9th of Av become the time of the year when so many calamities took place in the history of the Jewish nation (the destruction of two temples, the fall of the city of Beitar to the Romans, the expulsion from Spain, the expulsion from the Gaza Strip). She pointed to the fact that the sin of the spies, the first event that established Tisha B’Av as a day of mourning for the ages, was the sin of fear of going out to conquer the promised land. The spies convinced the nation that we couldn’t do it.
9 B’Av Jerusalem march 2016 organizers Yehudit Katsover and Nadia matar / Photo credit: Gershon Elinson
“We can’t do it! The state of mind of ‘I can’t do it’ is the cause of defeat. That’s the root of the destruction,” Katsover said. “Tisha B’Av is here to remind us to mourn the things we could have done but didn’t … because of our fear. We don’t build in Judea and Samaria because we’re afraid of pressure from the dwarf Obama. We fail to save [the community set for demolition] Amona because the Supreme Court is afraid of the world. We don’t impose sovereignty because we fear the demographics. We don’t carry out this march in the direction of the Temple Mount because we fear the Arabs and the deteriorating State of Jordan.”
“If we allow our subjective fears to dictate our objective reality, we’ll keep falling time and again,” Katsover declared. “This is the root of our destruction. The first time this approach was introduced was on Tisha B’Av and since then, each year, we cry over the fact that we failed to trust ourselves.” And she announced, “On this Tisha B’Av we’ll decide that we can do. We can and we will. We will not permit the baseless tears to stop us.”
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Dov Kalmanovich / Photo credit: Gershon Elinson
Dov Kalmanovich, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, the first Israeli victim of the First Intifada (the skin of his face and a large part of his body were burned away by a Molotov cocktail that was hurled at his car on December 9, 1987), said the way to bolster Israel sovereignty across the Land of Israel was through unrelenting construction. He said liberation didn’t end with the conquering of the city, that’s where it started — and the rest is all about building the city. “With your support we’ll cry out for a sovereign Jerusalem,” but this sovereignty must be borne by physical building, Kalmanovich told the marchers.
Former MK Aryeh Eldad / Photo credit: Gershon Elinson
Former MK Aryeh Eldad told the audience about his late father, MK Israel Eldad, who each year on Tisha B’Av would visit the Israel Museum, stand in front of the statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who suppressed the Bar Kokhva rebellion (132 – 135 CE) and tell him, “So, what do you say? Where are you and where are we now?”
“On the surface he appeared to be right,” Eldad said about his father. “The Roman Empire disappeared and we are here, a sovereign nation returning to its homeland after destruction and catastrophe the likes of which history has not known. But it isn’t that simple.”
“The curse of Hadrian is still hovering above us,” Eldad continued. “After he destroyed Beitar and hundreds of other communities, and massacred half a million Jews, he was not satisfied, and sought to revise history and erase the memory of Israel. This is why he rename Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina (after Jupiter Capitolinus, the same god who eventually lent a derivation of his name to Capitol Hill). And he changed the name of the province of Judea to the province of Syria-Palestine.”
“This curse of Palestine has been chasing us to this day,” Eldad said. “If we want to return to the mountain, we must erase the name Palestine from Eretz Israel.”
The crowd responded with soaring applause.
Other speakers included Rina Ariel, mother of 13-year-old Halel Yaffa Ariel hy”d who was murdered in her bed a few weeks ago by an Arab terrorist; former Russian dissident Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich; and Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan.
MK Yehuda Glick / Photo credit: Gershon Elinson
The last speaker at the rally was MK Yehuda Glick, whose name and personal history have become intertwined with the story of Jewish efforts to return to the Temple Mount. “For two thousand years we’ve kept the commandment of ‘Bitterly she will weep at night’ (Lamentations 1:2), but no more! We stop crying and start doing! The fathers of the Zionist movement have taught us the diaspora is not only the punishment but the sin, too. Zion is the holy Mt. Zion, and Zionism took that name because it wanted to return to Zion, to the Temple Mount, and you,” he turned to the audience, “are part of the return to Zion, to the Temple Mount.”
Pointing out that when he began ascending to the Temple Mount only about a hundred Jews a year would go there, but in the past year some 20 thousand have come.
“Since the day fifty years ago, when God gave us, through the IDF, the land of our fathers, the Golan, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, and we said that Temple Mount is in our hands (the famous victory cry of Paratroopers commander Gen. Motta Gur, June 7, 1967), it really has been in our hands,” Glick said. “Temple Mount is holy, not the status quo,” he continued, crying, “Eicha-How [the Hebrew title of the Book of lamentations] is a scream. How can there be such and absurd reality in which we cannot pray in this place? How can it be that the global center of ‘Nation will not take up sword against nation’ fall in the hands of people who sanctify the sword? How can we give more and more power to the Waqf?”
Glick, whose first few months in office have been marked by liberal and tolerant statements that puzzle the media, concluded decidedly, “We must make clear that all the talk about the chance for a Palestinian State is finished. We will proceed in imposing Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, and anyone wishing to live in peace is welcome, and if they don’t we’ll use harsh measure against them.”
“We are now a nation of building in the daytime, not a nation of weeping at night,” Glick concluded.
The rally then erupted in three calls of “Higia z’man ribonut” (the time for sovereignty is now) and proceeded to the Kotel Plaza to sit down and say Lamentations.
9 B’Av Jerusalem marchers 2016 / Photo credit: Gershon Elinson