Israel on Tuesday marked Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, by using the occasion to discuss the issue of unity in the country.
The 25 hour long fast commemorates the destruction of the first and second Jewish temples, as well as a series of tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.
To mark the day, the Sderot Conference for Society and the Sapir Academic College organised a variety of discussions on the issue of “baseless hatred”—which according to Jewish tradition was the cause of the destruction of the second temple—as well as the importance of unity. The format of moderated conversations between leaders of different political persuasions was established following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in 1995.
As part of the program, Education Minister Naftali Bennett was in conversation with Avi Gabbay, the Labour Party’s new chairman. “It is inconceivable that in Israel in 2017, a person can be cursed in the name of a sector…The words leftist, Charedi, Arab, settler, are not curses. Each sector is first and foremost a collection of people with feelings,” Bennett said.
For his part, Gabbay recognized the growing feeling of polarization in Israeli society, but argued that social media has created an aura of extremism that does not necessarily exist offline. “The majority of the public is still moderate and is either silent or simply not voicing their opinions as loudly as others,” he said.
“For me, the state of Israel is a wonder…The Jewish people already destroyed the Second Temple with their civil wars, we must stop the process that will lead to the destruction of the Third Temple,” Gabbay added.
Elsewhere, in Ramle, Likud Deputy Foreign Minister Tzpi Hotovely was in conversation with Hadash MK Dov Khenin, the only Jewish MK in the Joint List, while in Lod, Greater Land of Israel ideologue Moshe Feiglin was in conversation with former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner.
To mark the fast, hundreds of Israelis walked around the Old City walls on Monday evening and thousands were expected to visit the Western Wall Plaza. On Tuesday morning, Army Radio reported that many Jews were waiting at the Mughrabi Gate in order to enter the Temple Mount.