For Tisha Ba'Av I joined my friend (and several thousand others) at the civic center for Maariv, followed by a reading of Eicha, after which we all went for a stroll around the old city of Jerusalem. It was a very warm evening, and the walk was pleasant despite the fact that we had just begun our fast. The route was lined on both sides with soldiers and security people--why? I was told that it was to prevent the Arabs from "provoking" us. Maybe it was the police presence or maybe they just didn't care, because there were no incidents, and in fact the only Arabs we noticed were either finishing off their day and hurrying home, or watching out of curiousity.
Near the end of the walk we stopped for the usual "political" speeches. I was told by my friend that one year the woman who organized the march announced that they were now going to storm the Temple Mount and reclaim it (or something to that effect). Needless to say it did not happen, nor did anything untoward occur this year. One of the rabbis said Kaddish, and we noticed that on the hill just above where he was standing, were a group of Arabs, watching through the gate. I couldn't see if they responded with Amen (I somehow doubt it) but they did not seem to be anything other than mildly curious. Perhaps there is hope after all--who knows.
My only disappointment with the walk was this--it was supposed to be a somber occasion in line with the fact that we were in mourning for the loss of the 1st and 2nd Temples, and all the tragedy the Jewish people have suffered. Instead, it was almost like a circus--people were laughing, posing for pictures, fooling around--even during Maariv and the reading of Eicha. It did seem that the brassy ones were mostly American tourists, but never-the-less it saddened me that such an important time in Jewish life has been denegrated to the point of "a night out". Then, of course, the beginning of the march had to be delayed while the reporters and cameras were organized so that the "leaders" could "announce" the start.
Regardless of the political "posers" it was a lovely walk, with views and sites that one does not usually see (like the original gigantic stones of the wall).
We ended the evening at the Kotel, where thousands were gathering for prayers. It was the first time I had seen the mehitza extended right to the end of the plaza. The Kotel is awesome at any time, but when it is packed with Jews in prayer, well, I get emotional just thinking about it.
I pray that one day we will be able to walk around the old city walls without a permit and heavy security, and that we may see the coming of moshiac and the rebuilding of the temple soon--in our time.