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Rewriting History

Rabbi Avi Shafran

Tisha B'Av, the Jewish fast that commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem as well as other tragedies of Jewish history, will take on a special poignancy this year. For not only has the Temple not been rebuilt and does the Messiah still tarry, but the Jewish People in the Jewish Land are under siege by enemies consumed with hatred and seemingly unfettered by any sense of the holiness of human life.

What is more, the assault is being mounted not only against Jews and the Jewish State but against Jewish history itself.

Consider the official Palestinian Ministry of Information's statement that "there is no tangible evidence of any Jewish traces/remains in the old city of Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity."

Or the declaration of Palestinian Authority Mufti Ikrima Sabri, in an interview with the Germany periodical Die Welt, that "there is not [even] the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish temple on [the Temple Mount] in the past." (The Muslim cleric went on to speak of how "it is the art of the Jews to deceive the world" and that Israeli Jews "from Germany should return to Germany," laughing to his German interviewer before adding "After all, you like them so much, don't you?") [quotes courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute]

And the world is all too happy to buy the cynical rewriting of history. Whether out of cowardice or something darker, a number of journalists have chosen to refer to the Temple Mount by the name Muslims have given it - though it was the site of King Solomon's Temple more than a thousand years before Islam's founder's grandparents were even glints in their own parents' eyes.

Wittingly or otherwise, such mindlessness masquerading as fair play assists the Arab determination to deny, as in the case of the Holocaust and other inconvenient realities, the ancient and essential Jewish bond to the Jewish land. The denial is executed quite tangibly too; credible sources report that the Waqf, the Islamic religious overseers of the mosques that function undisturbed on the Mount, has been excavating and systematically destroying artifacts of the Second Temple era, in a determined effort to prevent archaeologists from confirming the facts of history. Earlier this month, Jerusalem Police Commander Niso Shaham told a Knesset committee that a large electric saw is being used to destroy stones every day on the Temple Mount, and helicopter photographs of such destruction, and of a bulldozer on the Mount, also presented to the committee, confirm that charge.

Nor are our own people immune to the rot of revisionism. The most elemental events of Jewish history have been denied by even by some Jewish religious leaders, several of whom have famously gone on record rejecting the historicity of the Exodus, the revelation at Sinai and the conquest of the Land of Israel at the time of Joshua.

Judaism, however, has always been, and remains, a religion based on a historical tradition. We Jews recall - indeed, relive - our genesis as a people each Passover, and mourn the tragedies of our past each Tisha B'Av, when our tradition asks us to forego food, drink and other comforts.

This year, Tisha B'Av falls this coming Sunday, July 29 (the fast begins before sundown on Shabbat, July 28). Let us all, regardless of our level of observance or affiliations, reconnect to Tisha B'Av - and, through it, to each other and to the entirety of Jewish history.

Let us begin to recapture unity by joining together in the solemn observance of the millennia-old day of national Jewish mourning.

Let each of us find a place where Jews spend Tisha B'Av eve sitting on low chairs or stools and mourning, where images and feelings of Jewish tragedies, both distant and near are called up and bemoaned.

Let each of us set aside the day to fast, to pray, to reflect on our collective pain. And let us all, thereby, be joined by our fasting and praying -- to one another, but also to our fellow Jews across the ages - and to our fellow Jews living in the Jewish Land today.


Rabbi Avi Shafran serves as director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.



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