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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A quiet place to read Eicha (Lamentations)

This Wednesday evening / Thursday is Tisha B'Av .  Since many of you haven't been following along here since the beginning, I decided to share this from the archives... as well as an invitation.

For the first few years that we lived in Israel, I went with my family to the top of Herodion on the evening of Tisha B'Avt o read Eichah (Lamentations).  Herodion is an inspirational setting in which to recall the destruction of the Temples because some of the last members of the Jewish Revolt who were atop Herodion in 70 CE watched from their desert vantage as the smoke and flames rose from the Temple mount just a few miles away in Jerusalem. 

However, with each passing year, more and more people have told their friends about this special setting, and Herodion has become impossibly crowded on erev Tisha B'Av.  So much so, that instead of being a somber, inspirational experience, it has become a 'happening'... an almost festive 'scene'. 

Despite the tradition of not extending greetings or shaking hands on Tisha B'Av, the gathering together of so many Jews in one place pretty much guarantees that people who haven't seen each other in a long time will be calling out to one another over the crowd... shaking hands... slapping backs... laughing.  In short, acting in a manner that is not appropriate for the day.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to go somewhere quieter, yet with a similar connection to the past... a place with a Jewish past that now lay in ruins.

Long time readers may remember that I once wrote about a ruin called 'Anim' that I had stumbled across while exploring a small side road on the way home from work.  Anim was a Jewish town that existed in the Mishna - Talmud period (approx. 200 – 400 C.E.) which, if memory serves, had been built atop the ruins of another Jewish town from the First Temple period (825 - 492 B.C.E.).

An enormous area on the edge of the Yatir Forest is strewn with Anim's stone foundations, toppled buildings and an extensive network of caves/tunnels.  And in the center of the ruins is what must once have been a lovely Beit Knesset (synagogue) whose floor and four walls still mostly intact.  You can even see the place along the northern wall (the one closest to Jerusalem) where the foundation for the Aron Kodesh (ark which held the Torah) had been built.

Over the past week, I spoke with a few friends and asked them if they would be interested in going to Anim to read Eichah on Tisha B'Av.  But in addition to the regulars, this year I decided that it might be nice to 'invite' some of you along (at least those who live in the area). 

So, tomorrow afternoon, after finishing the Seudah Mafseket (the meal before the fast) we will again be driving down through the Hevron Hills towards the edge of the Yatir Forest... to the ruins of Anim.    We will arrive just as the last rays of the sun are disappearing behind the horizon and will sit down on the sun-warmed stones of the old synagogue to remember our losses.

Unlike the roar of the crowd atop Herodion, our small group will sit in pristine silence... say Aravit (the evening service)... and hear every word of Eicha.   The only sound will came from the voice of the reader... and the whisper of the wind through the nearby trees and across the ancient stones.

If you think you'd like to join us erev Tisha B'Av in this special place, please leave a comment or email me at treppenwitz - at - gmail - dot - com.  I can send you the very easy directions or you can simply drive with us (we'll be meeting outside the southern entrance to Efrat).  [Don't forget a flashlight]


Tzom Kal (an easy fast) to those who will be observing this difficult day on Wednesday night / Thursday..

Posted by David Bogner on July 28, 2009 | Permalink


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I wish I could. I'll be there in spirit. Sounds like a nice place to spend the evening at.
(You sure you won't also hear the sound of a little 5 1/2 year old, though?)

Posted by: val | Jul 28, 2009 1:32:23 PM

if memory serves, had been built atop the ruins of another Jewish town from the First Temple period (825 - 492 B.C.E.).

Where did you get those dates? The first temple period is dated c. 1000-586 BCE.

By the way, you're right. There was a Jewish settlement at Horvat Anim during the first temple period. It's identified by archaeologists with the Anim mentioned in Joshua 15:50. This is based on the context of the biblical passage (it's mentioned after Eshtamoa and along with other nearby South Hebron hills place-names) and because of the preservation of the biblical name in the modern Arabic name. The synagogue and other ancient remains which are visible at the site date to the late Roman - Byzantine period (4th-6th century CE).

Posted by: avi | Jul 28, 2009 5:38:25 PM

This is so good..what a great thing to do..man I wish I were in Jerusalem, I would be there, to sit silently, reflect..why does the 137 Psalm keep humming in my ears.

Posted by: Poney | Jul 28, 2009 7:24:07 PM

Sounds like a very interesting place to listen to Eicha.
Have an easy fast.

Posted by: David S. | Jul 28, 2009 8:36:12 PM

I'll be with you in spirit too. Good idea to get away from the crowds. It is good to pull aside to reflect. Wishing you a headache free fast:-)

Posted by: Noa | Jul 28, 2009 9:49:27 PM

Have an easy fast. May the headache start as late as possible or, even better, not at all.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Jul 28, 2009 10:44:30 PM

I believe that the wish should be 'tzom mo'il' מועיל meaning a fast which achieves its purpose. Of course no headache is also good..

Posted by: Risa | Jul 28, 2009 10:47:45 PM

I usually wish people a "meaningful fast". How do you say "meaningful" in Hebrew?

Posted by: Mark | Jul 29, 2009 12:46:41 AM

I believe David simply did a direct date conversion from the Hebrew Calendar (which for dates prior to the days of Alexander the Great gives erroneous results). This is a sensitive subject for those who hold to tradition.

Nonetheless, your date of 1000 BCE for the original construction of the Temple is a bit too early.

Posted by: Bob | Jul 29, 2009 7:37:50 AM

Sounds like an ideal setting.....

Posted by: rickismom | Jul 29, 2009 8:12:10 AM

Thanks for clearing that up, Bob. I've never seen the actual use the Seder Olam Rabah chronology before, especially combined with the Christian counting of years, so I assumed it was a typo. I certainly didn't intend to open an argument on the subject...

And you're right, technically the first temple period should begin with the building of the temple sometime during the first half of the 10th century. In modern Land of Israel archaeology the first temple period (aka Iron Age II) has become synonymous with the period of the united kingdom (under Saul, David, Solomon) and the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. This period began c. 1000 and ended with the Babylonian conquest of Judah.

Posted by: avi | Jul 29, 2009 1:13:10 PM

What a wonderful place to recite Eicha.

Posted by: rachel | Jul 30, 2009 12:38:01 PM

Recognizing that this is a solemn occasion, and wishing all well, forgive me for a lighthearted quote here.

But David's observation of how the gathering at Herodion has evolved brought to mind one of Yogi Berra's famously fractured sayings:

"No one goes there anymore. It's too crowded..."

Posted by: Mike Spengler | Jul 30, 2009 7:04:19 PM

That sounds awesome I hope it went well

Posted by: Joe | Jul 30, 2009 7:15:10 PM

Just been forwarded this documentary about the terrible events in Mumbai. www.europenews.dk/en/node/24746

Posted by: Noa | Jul 30, 2009 10:07:29 PM

Tel Shiloh is a good spot, too. The atmosphere is dignified, suits the moment. Anyone willing to come is welcome. Though, G-d willing, next year the Moshiach will be here and there will be be celebrations...

Posted by: Batya from Shiloh | Aug 2, 2009 6:08:05 AM

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