Sharona Margolin Halickman

Why the “Nachem” (consolation) prayer is unfortunately still relevant

This past Tuesday was the tenth Tisha B’Av in a row that I have commemorated in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av this year was totally different as it was commemorated during Tsuk Eitan, a war in which Jerusalem was targeted along with most of the State of Israel.

On Monday morning, Erev Tisha B’Av, Arab-Israelis rioted on the Temple Mount injuring five policemen. Next, an Arab-Israeli resident of Jabel el Mukabar (an Arab village a “stone’s throw” away from my home) used the construction vehicle that he was working with as a weapon to overturn a bus killing Rabbi Avrohom Vales z”l, a 29 year old pedestrian. Later that day, an Arab motorcyclist fired at an Israeli soldier, Chen Schwartz leaving him in critical condition.

Monday night, after the reading of Eicha on Jerusalem’s Tayelet (the promenade that overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem) fireworks and worse were once again thrown by residents of the Arab villages in the direction of Jewish homes in Armon HaNatziv.

On Tuesday morning, right before the “cease fire” rockets were shot all over Israel from Gaza. One rocket was targeted at Jerusalem. The rocket hit a house of an Arab family in Bethlehem and a giant piece of debris from the rocket fell on Derech Hevron, just a few blocks away from my home.

Later that day, a security guard was stabbed at the entrance of Maaleh Adumim. The Arab who stabbed the security guard escaped into one of the surrounding Arab villages.

On Tisha B’Av, the Mincha prayer for Rebuilding of Jerusalem is different. The following words are added:

Nachem- Console O Lord our God,

The mourners of Zion

The mourners of Jerusalem,

And the city that is in sorrow, laid waste,

Scorned and desolate;

That grieves for the loss of its children,

That is laid waste of its dwellings,

Robbed of its glory, desolate without inhabitants.

She sits with her head covered like a barren childless woman.

Legions have devoured her;

Idolaters have taken possession of her;

They have put your people Israel to the sword

and deliberately killed the devoted followers of the Most High.

Therefore Zion weeps bitterly,

And Jerusalem raises her voice.

My heart, my heart grieves for those they killed;

I am in anguish for those they killed.

For you, O Lord, consumed it with fire

And with fire you will rebuild it in the future,

As I said (Zecharia 2:9) “And I myself will be a wall of fire around it says the Lord and I will be its glory within.”

Blessed are you HaShem who consoles Zion and rebuilds Jerusalem.

Since 1967, there have been opinions that the Nachem prayer is no longer relevant since the city of Jerusalem is now in Jewish hands.

However, I have to disagree with them. We have the Kotel yet Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. Just two weeks ago, instead of respecting our holiest place, Arab-Israelis burned the police station on the Temple Mount. Jews are not free to live or even walk in every neighborhood of Jerusalem yet the Arab Israelis are free to take driving lessons on my street and shop in my neighborhood. Much of the Eastern side of Jerusalem is poorly maintained including the Temple Mount itself where garbage is dumped.

Some believe that we should no longer say that “Jerusalem is desolate without inhabitants” when in fact there are almost 500,000 Jews living in Jerusalem.

There may be a lot of Jews living in Jerusalem but there could be a lot more. Since 1967, the Jews who have retuned to the Old City of Jerusalem have rebuilt the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel Plaza. There are some Jewish families in the Muslim Quarter who unfortunately need 24 hour security guards (set up by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon). There are also small Jewish communities on Har Hazeitim (Mt. of Olives), also with full time security. However, for the most part Jews are excluded from the much less expensive Arab neighborhoods and villages. The price of housing in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem is very high which unfortunately keeps young families from being able to remain in Jerusalem. Many are afraid that the Arab population in Jerusalem may eventually exceed the Jewish population.

The words “That grieves for the loss of its children” unfortunately ring true today. Our hearts grieve for all of the soldiers who have been killed during this war. Jerusalem lost eleven amazing soldiers. I, along with thousands of others attended the heartbreaking funeral of Barkai Shor z”l. Barkai was a graduate of the same school which my son attends. I didn’t know Barkai personally but from the eulogies it is clear that he was a young man full of loving kindness whose life was cut short.

Just as the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed by fire, we have unfortunately seen many fires in Jerusalem over the past few months: forest fires, the burning down the light rail system and the burning of cars with Israeli flags on them.

Today we still have a lot to cry for in Jerusalem yet the prayer is called “Nachem”, “console” just us the upcoming Shabbat is called “Shabbat Nachamu”, “the Shabbat of consolation.”

If so many horrible prophecies have been fulfilled then it is time for the second part of the prophecies to come to fruition as well.

As it says in Zecharia 8:4-5: “Thus said Hashem, Master of Legions: Old men and old women will  once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem each with his staff in hand because of advanced age; and the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets.”

In Zecharia 8:7-8 we read “Thus said HaShem, Master of Legions: Behold I am saving My people from the land of the east and from the land where the sun sets; and I will bring them and they will dwell within Jerusalem. They will be a people unto Me and I will be a God unto them in truth and in righteousness.”

Despite everything that has been going on, these prophecies are coming true. Jews from all over the world continue to make aliya. This summer alone there are a few thousand people making aliya from all over the world including over 100 lone soldiers who will be arriving this week ready to join the IDF.

We have to do our part to continue fulfilling the prophecy of bringing Jewish families to the Land of Israel and filling the streets with people of all ages and backgrounds.

On this Shabbat Nachamu, the eve of my tenth Aliya anniversary, may God answer the prayer that we recited at Mincha on Tisha B’Av and console Zion and rebuild Jerusalem.


About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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