This Sunday, August 10th, is known as Tisha b’Av on the Hebrew calendar. Tisha b’Av simply means it is the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. However Tisha b’Av is much more than just a date on a calendar. This peculiar day holds great significance for the Jews, as it is expressly linked with Israel’s destiny.
Jewish tradition regards Tisha b’Av as the day the Children of Israel were prohibited from entering the Promised Land. You will recall, God commanded Moses to send 12 spies into the land of Canaan, one from each of the tribes of Israel. They returned with tales of a land flowing with milk and honey. However Israel feared the inhabitants of the land. Of the 12 spies, only 2, Joshua and Caleb, had faith that God would deliver the land into their hands. God had delivered them from slavery and Egypt, parted the waters of the Red Sea, protected them, and miraculously provided for their every need. Yet the nation of Israel was consumed by fear and doubt, thus God decreed that a generation would pass away, wandering in the wilderness, before Israel would be allowed to enter His Land.
The 9th of Av has marked some of the most harrowing days in the history of the nation of Israel:
- On the 9th of Av, in the year 586 B.C., the First Temple, built by Solomon, was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and the Babylonian captivity began.
- On the 9th of Av, 70 A.D., the Second Temple, that which was standing during Christ’s ministry, was destroyed by the Romans, precisely as Jesus predicted in Luke 19.
- Also on this day, in the year 135 A.D., the famous Bar Kokhba revolt was squelched when Bethar, the last Jewish stronghold, fell to the Romans.
- One year later, in 136 A.D., the Roman Emperor Hadrian established the heathen temple to Jupiter on the site of the Jewish Temple. Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city, and renamed the land as Palestina, to distance its Jewish heritage. (This attempt to disavow the land from its Jewish roots was echoed by the British in their labeling the land "Palestine.") The date when the Temple area was plowed under by the Romans was the 9th of Av.
- On March 31, 1492, the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella issued a royal decree that all Jews must leave Span. The deadline was set for August 3rd of that year. If any Jews were found in Spain after this period they were to be killed. On the Jewish calendar, it was the 9th of Av.
If that weren’t enough, the 9th of Av is also the day of:
- The declaration of the Crusades by Pope Urban II in 1095
- The burning of the Talmud in 1242
- The signing of the edict by King Edward I in 1290 expelling the Jews from England
- The start of the First World War in 1914
- The mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland in 1942
- The bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center by Arab terrorists in 1994 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 86 and wounded more than 120.
Thus the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, has become a symbol of all the persecutions and misfortunes of the Jewish people, for the loss of their national independence and their sufferings in exile. It is a day of intensive mourning for the destruction of the Temple and for Jerusalem.
In 2005, the 9th of Av marked another milestone in Israel’s history. That year Tisha b’Av marked the beginning of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. All 21 Gaza settlements were evacuated along with four of 120 settlements in the West Bank. The withdrawal marked the end of Israel’s 38 year presence in the Gaza Strip. Approximately 9000 Jewish settlers were made to leave their homes, some were forcibly removed. The withdrawal took place amid a backdrop of widespread protests, and was accompanied by whispers of civil war.
The withdrawal was seen as necessary for Israel’s security. However in the eyes of the Palestinians, the Gaza withdrawal represented victory in their armed struggle against the Israeli occupation. Israel’s retreat was seen as the direct result of the sacrifice of suicide bombers and the almost constant barrage of mortar and rocket on settlements. The bottom line: it was a victory for terrorism. Six months later, after being credited for bringing about the Israeli retreat, the terrorist organization Hamas claimed victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Tisha b’Av is indeed a day of mourning. It is marked with sadness and fasting. On this day the Jews are reminded of their tragic history. Yet they will also be looking forward, toward the ultimate rebuilding of the Temple, to a time when the 9th of Av will become a day of joy and gladness (as it was foretold in Zechariah 8:19).
We do know that the Temple will be rebuilt because Jesus, John, and Paul all make reference to it. But we also know that this Temple will be desecrated by the Coming World Leader when he sets himself up to be worshiped. It is possible this prophetic event will also take place on Tisha B’Av – and may happen in the not-too-distant future.