While I have had the opportunity to be in Israel over the years many times, I have NEVER been here for 9 Av in my entire life. So, I decided that I needed to have "a plan" for the day of 9 Av in order to fully appreciate the day. Last night, I along with a few hundred others, sat on the floor of Pnei Shmuel (the "Down Shul"), in Maale Adumim for Maariv, Eicha and Kinnot. (It was strange for me to not be one of those reading part of Eicha and even stranger to know that the next morning, I would not be sitting and explaining all the Kinnot we would be saying. But, it is a new point in life and things move on!)
On 9 Av in the morning, I got up earlier than I had planned and decided to put my plan into action. I got on a bus here in Maale Adumim at 6:15am and headed to Yerushalayim. I felt that it was the "place to be" on the darkest day of the Jewish Calendar. I was not disappointed...the Kotel plaza was filled with people. Hundreds sat on the stone floor davening and reciting Kinnot. As I sat there and joined in reciting Kinnot as well, I paused to look around. I was looking at the Western Wall, the retaining wall of the mountain upon which stood the Bet HaMikdash, whose destruction we mourn today. Suddenly, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of both sadness and joy. Sadness, as I contemplated the loss of both the first and second Bet HaMikdash. But, I also felt a sense of joy to know that I was sitting at "Ground Zero" so-to-speak. HERE IS WHERE IT ALL HAPPENED! HERE IS THE PLACE FOR WHICH I AND THOUSANDS OF OTHER JEWS ARE RECITING KINNOT! And I felt this sense of peace to know I had the zechut to be HERE...
When I finished and headed back to the Central Bus Station, I paused for a moment near the Davidson Center, home to the Southern Wall Excavation site. I was disappointed that I could not GO to the Southern Wall. It actually is more significant archeologically than the Western Wall, and I wanted to stand THERE...but, at least I could stand nearby and look upon the area where centuries ago, tens of thousands of Jews passed through the (currently sealed) gates to the Temple Mount. I understood with much deeper insight the vast loss we have suffered for thousands of years without our ability to ascend Har haBayit and see a Bet HaMikdash standing there!
I am now back home in Maale Adumim, and I got a very quick reminder of what kind of Galut we still face: I went to change my profile on Facebook to Maale Adumim from Chicago. When I entered in the name, I was surprised to see it come up on a list of names that Facebook recognized. BUT...I was doubly surprised to see the default read: "Maale Adumimm, Palestine." I thought this issue had been resolved. Oh well.. yet another thing to deal with at some point!
Hope that your Tish'a B'Av is meaningful and that you will alll join me next year dancing at the rebuilt Bet HaMikdash!