Tisha B’av is a date on the Jewish calendar. It is literally translated as the “ninth of the month of Av,” and usually falls between July and August on the Gregorian calendar. This day is the saddest and most mournful day on the Jewish calendar. On it numerous tragedies in Jewish history occurred.
If you are in Israel during Tisha B’Av, here are some helpful points to know and be aware of.
What Happened on the Ninth of Av?
The primary tragedies that occurred on Tisha B’Av are the destructions of the First and and Second Temples. Yes, their destruction ironically occurred on the same day, hundreds of years apart.
The First Temple, built by Solomon, was destroyed under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:8-10). The Talmud—a Jewish writing containing law and legend—records that the First Temple began burning on the 9th of Av and continued burning until the 10th.
The Second Temple, which was rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, was destroyed by the Romans on the 9th of Av in 70 AD. Its destruction marks the scattering of the Jewish people to different nations throughout the world, the effects of which we still see today.
In 135 AD, on Tisha B’Av, the Romans squashed the Bar Kochba revolt and killed over 500,000 Jewish people who lived in the city of Betar, which is about 15 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem. As if this tragedy wasn’t great enough, the Roman commander Turnus Rufus completely flattened the what was left of the Second Temple ruins.
A few more recent tragedies that happened on Tisha B’Av are the expulsion of all Jews from England in 1290, and the banishment of all Jews in Spain in 1492. In addition, World War I, which brought about World War II, began by Germany declaring war on Russia on Tisha B’Av.
Because of these tragedies, Tisha B’Av is considered to be a day that is doomed for disasters.
The Jewish Laws of Mourning on Tisha B’Av
Different Jewish sects observe Tisha B’Av differently. The most traditional way to observe Tisha B’Av is to follow the Jewish laws of mourning on Tisha B’Av. These requirements begin at sundown of the eve prior to Tisha B’Av and end at sundown on the day of Tisha B’Av. The laws include fasting, not wearing leather footwear, sitting on a lowered stool as opposed to a regular chair (see photo below), no bathing or beautifying products, no big outings, and wearing simple clothing.
So if you are in Israel during Tisha B’Av, don’t be surprised if you sense that something seems off or unusual. You are correct in your assumption, and now you know why.