This year, Tisha be’Av starts on a Mozzae’i Shabbat. Right after Shabbat is over, we enter the 25 hour fast commemorating the two destroyed Temples. However, the 9th day of Av is not only identified with mourning but also with hope for a better future: The arrival of Meshiach and the Third Temple. A Third Temple where Cohanim and Levi’im are going to continue their service.
Every year on the eve of Tisha be’Av, the national religious movement together with the Israeli organization Women in Green organize the traditional Walk around the Old City Walls. After a public Megillath EICHA reading thousands of people start walking around the the Old City until the Kotel (Western Wall).
Until some years ago, EICHA was read in front of the municipality building but the event has been moved to Independence Park across the American Consulate. After the Megillah reading, hundreds and sometimes even thousands of mostly national religious participants walk down to Damascus Gate, then passing Lion’s Gate until the Kotel. The walk leads through parts of East Jerusalem and thus participants are accompanied by lots of policemen and army border police.
The Hebrew name for Damascus Gate is SHA’AR SHECHEM (Shechem Gate or Nablus Gate). The gate already existed in the times of the Roman occupation. A time when Islam didn’t even exist. When you entered the gate 2000 years ago, you found yourself in a famous shopping street called CARDO. Leading from Damascus Gate into today’s Jewish Old City Quarter. If you are in Jerusalem and walking through the Jewish Quarter, you can enter a small gate right underneath the Chabad Zemach Zedek Synagogue leading you to the ruins of the Cardo. A painting on a wall will give you an idea how the shopping street looked 2000 years ago. Your feet are actually walking on the original Roman stones.
Avoid making the mistake to ask a Palestinian for further historical information. I know that many tourists do this and the Palestinian will always tell you the same: There were no Romans in Palestine. Neither were there any Jews or Temples. The land always belonged to Muslims and Mohammad was in Jerusalem.
However, the truth is that Mohammad never set a foot onto Jerusalem soil and the city is not even mentioned in the Koran. Palestinians have no idea about history because they are brainwashed by their leadership.
Every year Israel’s left and the international media claim that only right – wing fundamentalist Jews participate in the Tisha be’Av walk. I am participating in the event for a different reason: Because I can enter an area where it usually is far too dangerous to walk around as a Jew. Only on the eve of Tisha be’Av I can pass Damascus Gate, see the huge stones Jerusalem was once built upon and I can see the location where Jews used to enter the Second Temple. On any other day, this area is too dangerous and a Palestinian could kill you any time.
People usually walk very quietly and most Palestinians are already home. Hardly anyone is in the streets because Palestinians like to close their shops and restaurants relatively early. This year, the walk itself is going to start rather late. At least not before 10.15 pm or 10.30 pm. Until we reach Damascus Gate and Lion’s Gate, it will be 11 pm.
In previous years some foreign journalists supporting the Palestinians were taking pictures of us. They mostly do so from the Palm Hostel or Faisal Hostel across Damascus Gate. Especially the Faisal Hostel is known as a Hamas place.
Once we reach Lion’s Gate, everyone stops and the head of Women in Green, Nadja Matar, as well as a few politicians start making their speeches. I hardly ever listen to that and only stop for a short period of time. According to my opinion, all this political stuff has nothing to do with Tisha be’Av.
The paradox is that Palestinians from East Jerusalem are free to come to West Jerusalem but, as soon as a Jew wants to step into East Jerusalem, this could endanger his life. Palestinians walk and work in the Jewish part of town but Jews are not allowed to enter East Jerusalem. There is no official prohibition though but a Jew entering could be lynched by a Palestinian mob.
Walk around the Old City Walls 2013 – Palestinians screaming Allah Akbar in front of Damascus Gate