Tomorrow (Monday) evening at sundown we mark Tish’a B’av – the day of mourning for the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), the dispersal of Jewry and many other tragedies.
Just in time for this somber day, the headlines are plagued with tragedies and current events which deserve days of mourning themselves.
As many of us are aware, Antisemitism can be likened to a wildfire jumping through the air from the arid fields to the drought-ridden forests of today’s “educated” world. The “enlightened” people of today are thirsty. In one of Thailand’s universities for example, an exhibit with Hitler on display as a superhero next Batman and Superman stands in public for all to see. PM Netanyahu reminded the world today that Iran’s nuclear program is still considered an existential threat to Israel. Within Israel, Muslim worshipers attending Ramadan prayers at Me’arat Hamachpelah (The Cave of Patriarchs/The Double Cave) in Chevron (Hebron), ripped down and stole mezuzahs, flung mud and garbage around the prayer rooms, and desecrated our second holiest site. The xenophobia and resulting vandalism, terrorism and spreading of lies, on the part of non-Jews, is unfortunate and inexcusable, but in truth, sadly expected by most who are aware of our history.
What is not often expected or properly handled is the strife and hatred from within. This is what many believe to be the true cause of the destruction of our holiest site over two thousand years ago and what stands between us and its rebuilding. The politics, wars and other external factors, which are relevant to the timeline and semantics, are, in the opinion of many, extraneous during this period of national and religious introspection. What we must focus on is “us”.
For months now, the battle between Women of the Wall and Women for the Wall and all of their respective supporters has headlined newspapers in Israel and around the world. Today, news broke of a chareidi rabbi dubbing kippah-srugah (knit-kippah) wearers the modern incarnation of Amalek, our arch enemy, and went on to say that the only thing preventing the glorious Throne of God from being complete is the existence of these kippot. The verse in Shemot (Exodus) 17:16 refers to a renewing war with Amalek, not Jews! This rabbi has used either his personal interpretations and emotions or those of others while abusing his position to mislead the masses and fire his weapon in an already critical situation.
There is a well-known theory that a city is only as strong as its walls and infrastructure. Many Jews with positive motives have opened “gates” to let non-Jews in and Jews out into the world in order to start bridging gaps and hopefully start to put out the flames of the raging wildfire. However, how many of us have started to strengthen our own relationships? How many are determined to recognize the legitimacy of another’s opinion or belief and bring them closer to find a solution to the problem as opposed to making things worse and pushing them away?
We have seen in modern history that when our nation comes together under one identity as they did in 1967 and 1973, we are nearly invincible against all odds with the hand of God leading and protecting us.
Our mission for the next two days is to make a plan, starting right now, how each one of us will make our infrastructure stronger: how we each plan to bring a fellow Jew closer. Then and only then can we dub ourselves true combatants of the external Antisemitism. Then and only then can we be SUCCESSFUL as combatants of external Antisemitism.