“Thus said the lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Yehuda; but you must love honesty and integrity.” Zechariah 8:19 (The Israel Bible™)
For the second time in as many years, as the director of Root Source, I have had the honor of helping in the planning and running of the events and projects associated with the Nations’ Ninth of Av.
In 2018, a delegation of about a dozen pro-Israel Christian leaders, mostly residents of Israel, presented two short documents to the Speaker of the Knesset, Mr. Yuli Edelstein, in his chambers. One was a printout of a list of some 500 atrocities committed by Christians in the name of Christ against Jews throughout history. The other was a petition-style document signed by some thousand Christians from all over the world declaring their contrition and horror regarding that list.
That event made quite an impact. One of our Root Source subscribers, Ray Montgomery, contacted my partner at Root Source, Bob O’Dell, the author of the list of those atrocities, and shared that he, too, had spent years researching this sordid history and they agreed to combine their work to create a more comprehensive list. Another Root Source subscriber, Laura Densmore, proposed that a collection of prayers and meditations of repentance be composed to accompany some of those antisemitic acts. I encouraged Bob, Ray and Laura to upgrade these documents to full-fledged books. We got over a thousand more Christians to sign on to the declaration of remorse. And Bob put together a team to expand a Christian “observance” of the Ninth of Av to include events all over the world and a designated week-long tour of Israel for Christians to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israeli Jews in their mourning.
All of these efforts paid off. The books The LIST: Persecution of Jews by Christians Throughout History and The 40 Days of Repentance: A Companion Guide to The LIST have been received with great acclaim, with hundreds of copied bought within weeks of publication. (They are available for purchase at 9-av.com/marketplace.) The expanded petition was presented to Mr. Yaakov Haguel, Deputy Chair of the World Zionist Organization and its head of Department for Activities in Israel and for Countering Anti-Semitism, in a touching ceremony. And dozens of Christians participated in events and ceremonies throughout the week between the 9th and 15th of Av, which is a lesser-known holiday that commemorates joyful events in Jewish history.
I participated in a number of outstanding, and in some cases historic, activities during this week.
We started the programs with a traditional Jewish Shabbat, with some thirty Christians and four Orthodox Jewish families lovingly guiding them. Countless deep heart-to-heart conversations were enjoyed that Shabbat.
On Saturday night, many more Christians and Jews joined this group on the Haas Promenade overlooking the Temple Mount, where Rabbi Chaim Eisen chanted the Book of Lamentations in the hauntingly beautiful traditional melody. Such an event, with Christians respectfully joining Jews on this holy day in Israel, is unprecedented.
On Sunday, after an all night prayer vigil attended by some of the Chrsitians, a special prayer and learning session was held on the steps of the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount. The group reconvened in the afternoon for more prayers and the presentation to Mr. Haguel. Some of the Christians fasted the entire day in empathy with their Jewish friends.
The rest of the week was spent touring Israel, especially off the beaten track in Judea and Samaria, meeting some of the pioneers and heroes who live there. I had the pleasure of guiding the group in my hometown, Gush Etzion, Hebron, and the Cave of the Patriarchs.
But the two highlights of the week were the farewell dinner we enjoyed with the Hayovel program on Har Bracha, and the Gala Banquet on Monday night. At both of these affairs, especially the banquet, dozens of Christians and Jews broke bread and broke down walls. We are surely in a special time, when brothers sit together, and realize that all their Father in heaven wants is for them to play nice together.
Christians have a phrase, “if the Lord tarries.” Jews similarly say “If the Temple is not yet rebuilt.” I am sure that if God forbid neither of these conditions are met by next summer, the events of the Nations Ninth of Av 2020 will only be much more exciting and even more awe-inspiring than those of this year. I hope to see you then in any case!