Why Tisha B’Av falls in August

So this is more of a Public Service Announcement than a blog.

You see as long as I’ve been in Israel – and I’ve been here longer than dirt – August has been the month in which all the day camps and other programs for children age 6 months – 18 close. That means that parents who are out of practice at taking full-time care of their kids are entertaining them round the clock or that they have pressed their own parents into action. The grandparents’ childcare skills are even rustier. Hell, we honestly don’t know whether a third screening of “Moana” is better or worse than a first screening of “Fifty Shades Darker.”

Add to that that many parents and grandparents are fasting and that, this year, Tisha B’Av falls on the first day of August. We’re all relying on what worked last year when toddlers napped in the morning and adolescent girls liked Justin Bieber.

Everywhere you look in Israel today, children are bouncing off the walls and parents are explaining in shrill voices why gummy worms are not protein.

You can just imagine what it was like before the First Temple fell in 587 BCE and the Second Temple fell in the 6th Century BCE. Of course all the Israeli parents in days of yore were too distracted when their childcare solutions were shut down in August to withstand Nebuchadnezzar II’s and Vespasian’s legions. Those of us who have held down the fort at home in Israel in August know how much harder that is when your significant other is in reserve duty. The minute they leave the house, your donkey breaks down and there’s no hot water at the rocks where you usually do your laundry.

August is also vacation time in Spain. So it wasn’t that big a coincidence that in 1492 Queen Isabella chose the same date in August, the 9th of Av, to expel the Jews. If you were stuck at home with three girls – Joanna, age 13, Maria, 10, and Catherine, 7 – would you kick your kids out of the castle or displace your anger onto a convenient target like the Jews.

And while New World ingenuity – i.e. Jewish sleep-away camp — may have solved the Jewish August problem for Americans, Tisha B’Av has become an all-too-convenient day for beleaguered camp counselors who are by August tired of coming up with programming ideas. They rely on traditional Tisha B’Av programming like simulated Sackings of Rome, Auto de Fes, etc. This gives adolescent girls who are perpetually on the verge of tears because the of-the-moment stud muffin (who is actually gay) “hooked up” with the ubiquitous mean girl — a real reason to cry. So your kids may come home as crazed as our kids are now.

The PSA: Don’t let those girls drive home from camp. And if you find yourself in Israel on Tisha B’Av, don’t drive anywhere. Don’t go to the supermarket. Don’t even think about going to a mall. It’s a jungle out there.

Note to haters who think this blog is in poor taste: Don’t even think about saying so. I’ll just Play the Holocaust Card.

About the Author
Varda Spiegel was Nurse-Director of the Bedouin Mobile Unit of the Negev, later serving as Maternal-Child Health Director for the Ministry of Health Jerusalem District. I am the author of Hershele and the Chicken Skates, was the English Web Content Manager for the Israel Museum and have translated from Hebrew to English for Haaretz and the ANU Museum of the Jewish People. I'm a grandmother, mother, and beachbum.
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