The leader of the Reconstructionist movement Mordecai M Kaplan, was asked by a B’nai B’rith publication whether he still believed there was a place for Tishah B’Av. He answered the question in two ways.
“We cannot do without Tishah B’Av,” he said, “but we cannot do with it as it has come down to us.”
He advocated turning Tishah B’Av into a one-day Jewish hunger strike in protest against “the base and vicious libel which charges our people with being Christ-killers or deicides”, against “the destruction of cultural and spiritual life of three million of our people behind the Iron Curtain”, and against “men’s reliance upon military power”.
Jewish and world history have moved on since the 1950s, and our problems are not what they were then. Nor would most of us readily abandon the traditional observances of the day. But over and above the historical nub of Tishah B’Av, there is still force in Kaplan’s argument that there are things we need to protest against, and to associate our protest with Tishah B’Av would express our pain at the undeserved suffering and tragedy that surrounds us.
Our protest on Tishah B’Av is against a world that:
• deliberately misunderstands and maligns Jews and Judaism and targets Jewish institutions and individuals for victimisation;
• blames Israel for all the pain and deprivation in the world;
• cannot weep for Israelis murdered when they sit on a bus, gather for a Passover Seder, enter a pizza bar or a café, or do their shopping in a supermarket; and
• whitewashes certain types of homicide bombers as martyrs instead of murderers.
Tishah B’Av is believed to be the birthday of the Mashi’ach. Our Tishah B’Av protest may not bring the Mashi’ach any sooner, but it will ensure that the vision remains fresh in our minds and insistent upon our hearts.