Today is the 17th day of the month of Tammuz, in the Hebrew calendar. Today marks the start of the three weeks, which commemorate a slew of calamities in the history of the Jewish people starting with the Romans breaching the walls surrounding Jerusalem. These three weeks end on the 9th day of Av - Tisha b’Av – with the last nine days representing the final assault on the Kingdom of Judea’s capital and the burning down of the Temple. On the 9th, both the First and the Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Many other calamities throughout the lands of Europe befell the Jews during these the weeks, as well… Today, when the Jewish people are once again living in their own independent, sovereign country the lessons of Tisha b’Av still need to be learned, perhaps more so than ever before!
As long as the Jews were one – one people of one heart (am echad, belev echad) – they were invincible! When divisions, polemics and unwarranted hatred arose, when they splintered into factions, when the nation’s common goal suddenly stopped being common or even a goal… the Jews faltered. They no longer were invincible, the mightiest empires easily took them over and eventually dispersed them throughout the world. Even so, once those empires sunk in the quicksands of history, the Jews – against all odds, against all logic, against all historic precedent – did not disappear. Yes, the world repeatedly made sure their numbers were violently kept down. Many, unwilling to fight on, many tempted by the offers of the non-Jewish world, converted and became part and parcel of those who could potentially destroy or at least harass them… But… these no-longer-Jews were destroyed spiritually, if not yet physically.
Yet a core of Jews refused to give up their values, their national aspirations, their dreams, their history. Twice the stones (of the Temples) paid the price, when there were no stones left to destroy, when there was no kingdom of Jews to capture, the world just came up with reason after reason to kill them anyway… and yet… yet… they are still here.
In this the 21st century, the challenges are still many; the battle is still an uphill one… the odds, however, are slowly turning the Jews favor… if only… if only they manage to remember, their heritage, their history, their past and future glory…