Dear Mr. President,
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, until her righteousness shines out like the Morning Star and her salvation like a blazing torch.
You are probably unaware of this fact, but today is the first day of the month of Av. The Jewish world is currently in the midst of the Three Weeks – a period of mourning between the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz and the Fast of the 9th of Av. The first of these fasts commemorates the breach made in the defence wall surrounding Jerusalem and the second commemorates the conquest of the city three weeks later and the destruction of the Temple. Jewish tradition associates these dates with both the First and Second Temples – although we learn from II Kings, Chapter 25 that Nebuchadnezzar’s armies breached the city wall on the 9th of Tammuz and burned the First Temple to the ground on the 7th of Av in the year 586 B.C.E. Jeremiah confirms the date of 9th Tammuz as the date of the breaching of the city walls by the Babylonians (Chap. 25, v.6-7) but gives the date of the Destruction of the First Temple as the 10th of Av. After the Second Temple was built, the fasts commemorating these tragedies were apparently abolished and were only re-introduced after the Destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. The Romano-Jewish historian Josephus tells us that the breach in the defence walls was made on the 17th of Tammuz and that from that day, it took the enemy three weeks until the city was reduced to final submission and the Temple was razed to the ground. It no doubt seemed unreasonable to revive a fast on the 9th of Tammuz and in addition, to introduce a fast on the 17th commemorating an identical event hundreds of years later, so the rabbis decreed that both events should be commemorated on the 17th of Tammuz. As far as the discrepancy in the dates given for the Destruction of the First and Second Temples goes, the Talmud suggests that the Babylonians entered the precincts of the Sanctuary on the 7th of Av, started the conflagration on the 9th and that the work of Destruction was completed on the 10th when the Temple actually burned down. Thus, the day when the flames started was chosen to commemorate the event, in fasting and prayer. When, 656 years later, the Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman Titus on the 10th of Av, it was decreed by the rabbis that both catastrophes should be commemorated on the original fast day, the 9th Av.
The Fast of the 9th of Av is the most solemn fast in the Jewish calendar after Yom Kippur. The Destruction of the Temple by the Romans effectively marked the end of independent Jewish statehood in the Land of Israel, which was not to be regained until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The three week period between the two fasts is, as I already stated, a period of mourning known in Hebrew as בין המיצרים (Bein Hameitzarim), literally "between the straits", during which no festivities may be held, marriages may not be solemnised and orthodox Jews also refrain from wearing new clothes, cutting their hair, going to concerts and embrace various other personal restrictions.
Why am I telling you all this, Mr President? After all, I am sure you have no interest whatsoever in Jewish religious customs. You should, however, have an interest in Jewish history, as you presume to dictate the course of that history. You choose to "forget" that during the long Exile in Babylon, between the fall of the First Temple and the Return to Zion in the reign of King Cyrus, we Jews never ceased to mourn our lost city, we hung our harps on the willow trees beside the rivers of Babylon and wept, as we remembered Zion. You ignore (or are ignorant of) the fact that for almost two thousand years, since Titus and his Roman stormtroopers razed the Second Temple to the ground, ploughed over the ruins of Jerusalem, renamed it Aelia Capitolina and bestowed upon Judaea the name Palaestina, we Jews have kept faith with our city and marked the day of its destruction, year after year, with fasting, prayer and the reading of the Book of Lamentations. All this you forget, when you have the temerity to demand that Israel refrain from building in what you term "East" Jerusalem and that Jews be prohibited by the democratically elected government of the Jewish State from living in so-called "Palestinian" areas of our Eternal Capital.
For shame, Mr. President.