They commemorate the destruction of the two Temples at this time of year – first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and then by the Romans in 70 in CE.
It is said that the only remnant of the sanctuary is the Western Wall, but there is another sense in which the Jewish people themselves are the historical remnant of the time of the Temple.
Long before the emergence of Islam, for whom today’s Jews are interlopers who have more or less invented a narrative that endows them and their Temple with historic veracity, Jews and Jewish worship were enshrined in the holy site. Centuries of Christian pilgrims confirm that fact.
In 1842, George Fisk, an Anglican minister, wrote, “It is heart-rending to see these people, deprived of all rights in their ancestral homeland, looking on with longing eyes at a distance, at this holy place to which the Jewish heart always yearns”.
It had not always been thus; for centuries there was not only a Jewish indigenous presence in the Holy Land, but Jews were actually visiting the Temple site, as Rabbi Menachem Me’iri reported.
Jews who fast and pray on 17 Tammuz and 9 Av attest to the unbroken Jewish connection with the Temple and its Jerusalem location.