Yesterday, I was privileged to wake up before the sunrise, drive all the way to Jerusalem, stand in line for two hours in the hot sun, and ascend the Temple Mount plaza whilst reading the Psalms of Ascent and praying for the restoration of God’s holy house. I did this along with a group of Christian Zionists who all came to Israel specifically for the same purpose. Why would Christians choose to come to Israel on the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, which also happens to be a fast day?
Tisha b’Av (or the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av), is a day when Jewish people all over the world fast, and mourn not only the destruction of the first and second Temples but many other tragic events which happened to the Jewish people over the years.
On Tisha b’Av, 500,000 Jews were slaughtered by the Romans in the city of Betar at the culmination of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion, the Temple area was plowed under by a Roman general just one year later, the Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492, and the Final Solution in Nazi Germany was approved on this date, which ultimately led to the murder of 6 million Jews. The major expulsion of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto began on this day, and the list goes on.
On this day, Jews fast from food and drink for 24 hours, starting at sunset the evening before, and spend the day mourning and repenting for the baseless hatred, which according to tradition, is the reason why the second Temple was destroyed.
As Christians who have been working in Israel for many years, we feel that it is our duty and privilege to fast and mourn alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters. Many of the tragic events which happened to the Jewish people on this very date in history were attributed to the persecution that the Christian church committed against the Jews! Even though we may claim that our forefathers who killed and persecuted Jews throughout the centuries did not represent Christianity, we can still choose to take responsibility for their actions and make our decision to take a different path moving forward.
The Nations 9th of Av is an organization that is dedicated to connecting the nations with the land of Israel and repentance towards the Jewish people. This year, they brought a group of 25 people to Israel specifically for repentance, fasting, and mourning with Israel on the 9th of Av and experiencing the land and people of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Incredibly, most of the people who are part of the Nations 9th of Av tour are not just here to experience Israel, meet the people, and enjoy the food. They are here for a deeper purpose – that of choosing a different path by showing through their actions that Christians stand unequivocally with the land and people of Israel.
As I was walking the Temple Mount plaza on Tisha b’Av, I was reminded of Psalm 132. In this Psalm, David makes a vow that he will not seek comfort until he finds a resting place for the LORD.
“I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Psalm 132:4-5)
I was struck by the fact that on this day, the 9th of Av, Jews and Christians joined hand in hand in refusing comfort by abstaining from food and drink, they got up early and stood in line for hours in the blazing sun – all to repent for their past sins and seek God’s favor in seeing His house restored.
Eventually, David and Solomon did see the Temple established, but it was ultimately destroyed because of the Jewish people’s baseless hatred toward one another. Throughout the centuries, Christianity drifted from its original roots, refusing to even consider the idea that God had chosen a dwelling place in Zion. They showed this indifference by persecuting the Jewish people for the last 2,000 years.
“For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:13-14)
On this year’s Ninth of Av fast, Christians and Jews ascended the Temple Mount together and joined in praying for the restoration of God’s house in Jerusalem, which will one day become a house of prayer for all nations.
“Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)