Subscribe to a Weekly Series


Rewriting History

by | Feb 19, 2004

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’

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.