With Jews in Israel and around the world marking the darkest day of their history by fasting and reading the Book of Lamentations, the Jewish state today prepares to expel its residents from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, and a nation once again braces for the possibility of tragedy.
Today marks the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, the date on the lunar calendar on which the First and Second Temples were destroyed. Other more recent tragedies occurred on the same date, such as the outbreak of pogroms against Jews during the First Crusade, the expulsion of Jews from Spain and later from England, and the crushing of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in Germany.
The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. 100,000 Jews were killed and the remainder were exiled from their Holy Land for 70 years.
The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans, according to traditional sources, because of baseless hatred between Jews. The Jewish people at the time, the Talmud relates, hated one another for no reason. Two million Jews were killed during the destruction, and those remaining were once again exiled.
The ninth of Av also marks the Jews’ worshipping of the golden calf in the Bible, the false idol that was presented after Moses did not return from Mount Sinai the day many had expected.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed on the same date in 135 A.D. when an uprising against Roman oppression, known as the Bar Kochba revolt, failed. A year later, on the same day, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and attempted to replace it by forming a new city, Aelia Capitolina.
In 1290 on the ninth of Av, King Edward I expelled the Jews from England. On that date in 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain.
50,000 Jews were massacred on the ninth of Av after the failure of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, an attempt by Jews trapped in the Polish capital to organize resistance against Nazi soldiers.
Jews commemorate the ninth of Av with restrictions similar to that of Yom Kippur – they refrain from eating and drinking, listening to music, washing, bathing, shaving or wearing cosmetics, and wearing leather shoes. They also read the Book of Lamentations, five Biblical poems that express Israel’s brokenness, bewilderment before God, and sorrow at the catastrophes that have beset the Jewish people through the ages.
For many, the ninth of Av this year is especially poignant. Today marks the beginning of the forced evacuation of the residents of Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities and of four communities in Judea and Samaria.
At midnight tonight, according to Israeli decree, any Jew who remains in Katif is considered an illegal occupant. Tomorrow morning, eviction notices will be served. If residents do not depart within twenty-four hours, they will be forcibly removed by the Israeli army and police.
Israeli forces today began deploying troops in towns surrounding Gaza to keep protesters from reaching the area. Tuesday, about 50,000 soldiers and police officers will form six rings in and around Gush Katif.
The first ring – consisting mostly of police – will remove residents from their homes. The second ring is charged with blocking surrounding roads to prevent anti-withdrawal activists from reaching each community being evacuated. The third and fourth rings will defend against Palestinian attacks during the evacuation. The fifth ring, mostly IDF soldiers, will attempt to prevent activists from infiltrating the Strip. The sixth ring, consisting of police officers, will control traffic on Israeli roads in the western Negev near the Gaza border, to prevent protesters from reaching Gush Katif.
Security sources say police forces will arrive en mass in Gaza Tuesday and will begin the actual evacuation of some communities Wednesday morning. About seventeen to twenty officers per Katif home will be used to physically drag occupants onto waiting buses and out of the area.
Police have been training for several months to deal with the possibility of residents refusing to leave. A police withdrawal exercise reportedly was halted last week when officers from Israel’s border patrol unit used excessive force against mock settlers participating in the drill.
Katif residents meanwhile have taken notice of the string of tragedies being mourned today and say they fear a calamity is awaiting the Jewish state.
“That Israel is planning to do this evacuation right after the ninth of Av is sickening,” Katif spokeswoman Anita Tucker, told WorldNetDaily. “It’s nothing but bad on this day. This can only end in a bad way.”
Dror Venunu, director of the Katif Development Fund, said, “They couldn’t have picked a more sensitive date to start the withdrawal. Have they no heart at all? For thousands of years, others ravaged the Jewish people on this day. Now look what is going to happen to us.”
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon originally planned to carry out the Gaza evacuation in mid-July, but said he postponed it out of sensitivity to the three weeks of mourning that precede the ninth of Av.
“Baloney,” said Tucker. “He postponed it because he wasn’t ready. If they cared about Jewish tradition, this wouldn’t be happening right after [the ninth of Av]. It wouldn’t be happening at all.”
Orli Haderi, a resident of Ganei Tal, a Katif farming community, said, “The date of the withdrawal is appropriate. There is no reason to hide the fact that this is a tragedy. So it makes sense to kick us out on the same date as the rest of the other horrible events.”
Haderi recalled a story she said she was taught in elementary school. According to several accounts, in the mid-1800’s the Emperor Napoleon walked past a synagogue on the ninth of Av and heard sounds of mourning inside. He inquired as to the reason for the wailing and was told the Jews were weeping over the destruction of their temples.
When were they destroyed, Napoleon asked, according to the story. One thousand, eight hundred years ago, he was told.
Napoleon reportedly responded: “Is there any other people who have kept alive similar mourning and hope for so many years? This people is destined for a future in their own homeland.”
Said Haderi, “We are finally here. We have our homeland. After being kicked out and expelled so many times by other nations, who would ever believe the Jewish people would be doing the expelling?”