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Study and Theory/
Tisha B'Av

Beeri Zimmerman

Did the Pioneering Movement Abandon Tisha B’Av?

Givat Haim Meuhad, 1990

The ninth and punishment


Our loss of Tisha B’Av to the wilderness of the “summer holiday” would not have happened if we had not lost its memory from the community-family calendar, in and outside of the kibbutz. The series of dates of the Jewish experience, which does not have a summer holiday, is deficient in our places in several critical sections whereby Tisha B’Av is the first of them.


Why did our community cancel the memory of Tisha B’Av? The answers appeared already in the thirties in an article published by Berl Katzenelson “Destruction and Detachment”. Berl, a member of the second wave of immigration, carries its torches in the race of time flowing like rain, suffers the fact that “one of the youth unions determined that its members would go to a summer camp on that same night, on which Israel weeps over the destruction, its enslavement and the rebellion of its exile”. From his pain and his bitterness he searches for reasons for this act, and eventually determines that these are youth counsellors, “whose spiritual world lacks knowledge and feelings for the day of the destruction”, and also defends and adds that “perhaps it is possible to teach them the right way by the known wording: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.


Berl falls here into the prevalent net of failure, resting at the door of revolutionaries – a failure in an understanding of the responsibility imposed on them to preserve the collective memory of the members of the second generation of the revolution. In a speech that he made to youth counsellors some time later, Berl again returned to the matter of Tisha B’Av, derived from an argument that his previous speech had raised, and again that same fundamental failure is pronounced to the eyes of the observer.


By the most simple means and in one hour, the memory of the nation knew to induce heavy mourning on every “Israeli person on planet earth” Berl says excitedly when he describes the method of preserving Tisha B’Av throughout Jewish history and he continues “every organ in the body of the nation, that was not totally amputated, wraps itself in darkness at this time, immerses in pain, folds into his heart the feeling of the destruction, the exile and the slavery”.


Can it be understood by these words that Berl saw those same youth counsellors, who he complained about, as people who have been totally amputated from the body of the nation? Certainly not!! Berl’s words were directed against those same times, in which the only alternative to the mourning of Tisha B’Av was a total departure, “total amputation” from the framework of the nation – assimilation, conversion and so forth. In those days there was no-one left in the camp without “knowledge and feeling about the day of destruction”. Berl knows that the thirties of the 20th century are not similar to the thirties of the 19th century.


It is impossible to say to a youth counsellor in the Land of Israel, who speaks Hebrew, who educates to Zionist-socialist fulfilment, who shares with Berl the ideals and the aspiration for its fulfilment, that he is an organ that has been “totally amputated” from the body of the nation.


However although he does not reach this point in his exhaustive accounting of the revolution of his generation, Berl indicates here, nevertheless and indirectly, a terrible option.: the total amputation of a son of the Zionist revolution from the body of the nation, notwithstanding him being a personification by his body of the commandments of Zionism and of the workers movement. Alike with other issues Berl’s genius glance has penetrated here over the screen of the present, his failure in understanding in depth the problem of the generation of sons, has pushed away from the depth of his historical understanding of the failure anticipated to one who severs or is severed from his national symbolic roots. Is there a connection between the disappearance of Tisha B’Av from our lives, and our incensed stuttering when facing the terrible slandering of Rabbi Peretz? Does the absence of a genuine accounting in the Jewish questions of our community not burden us, when we come to be accountable in primitive blood libels which land on us on the part of the ultra orthodox?


Does the fact that we have deposited Tisha B’Av in the hands of rabbinical Judaism not correspond with abandoning a dear concept such as “the land of Israel” into the hands of those same rabbinical Jews? Is there no connection between this wanton abandonment and our helplessness to educate our children on the knees of the basic assumption regarding our right to all of the Land of Israel, a differentiation within the framework of which there is no difference in principle between Emek Hefer and Mount Gerizim? Is there no connection between it and the difficulty that we have in clarifying the political stand which opines that conscious non-renunciation of “the land of Israel”, while aspiring to renounce the political existence of parts of this land, in return for regional and international legitimization for safe and consensual borders under the protection of the State of Israel, a stand within the framework of which there is a greater difference in principle between Emek Hefer and Mount Gerizim?


This year too, alike every year, we will lightly skip over Tisha B’Av. Even those who know, who perhaps believe, as friends of Berl in the “brigade” in Egypt, that “we have already been redeemed”, and even the ignorant, including their sons and happily already their grandchildren, shall look towards the local festival of love on the 15th of Av, or towards the heat of July and August steaming toward the hollow of the world,. In a secluded place, in the regional school’s library, the librarian will clean the bibles in preparation for the next study year. Between “Ruth” the biblical story, and “Ecclesiastes”, the wise literature, weeping in the night over the Book of Lamentations, with tears on her cheeks.  Indeed not every friend betrayed her however specifically that same pioneering public, who did more than anyone to realize the hope of the concluding verse:  “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old” (Lamentations, 5:21). Specifically he did not manage to return it to us: “For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim” (Lamentations, 5:17).

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