Thank God or the editors that the big events in Jewish history took place during what would become known later as "the academic year." Otherwise, we all may have missed Yom Kippur, the Exodus, even the Ten Commandments.
After I arrived in Israel on August 1, 1967, the first "holiday" I encountered was Dish Above.
"It's Tish Above," my counselor Debbie Lipstadt said.
"Could you spell that, please," I asked the future historian.
"What does it mean?"
"The ninth of the Hebrew month Av when we mourn the destruction of the temple."
"Which temple?" I only knew the Reform and Conservative temples in Cleveland. I was especially proud of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver's The Temple, as well as my own Temple Emanu El, whose rabbi, Alan S. Green, had written the seminal Sex, God and the Sabbath!
Debbie looked at me with disbelief and I felt her wondering if all Jews who came from west of the Hudson were ignorant.
I could only guess why the destruction of two temples hundreds of years apart had not been included in my Jewish curriculum. Either they had been censored by the Reform movement because they were too bloody and lacking social action or they took place during summer vacation.
When I asked Debbi how the Jewish People marked Tish b'Av, other than fasting, which I had no intention of doing, she said this year we would walk to the wall.
Now it wasn't just summer vacation, but my whole Jewish education from first grade Consecration to ninth grade Confirmation that was revealed as a watered-down travesty.
On Tish b'Av 1967 I joined a group of students from the One-Year Program at the Hebrew University to climb Mount Zion at dusk. We walked slowly toward the Wailing Wall through the rubble of war. Later I read that 250,000 Israelis were doing the same thing, which is probably why I felt swept up into a wave of Jewish history. Few were sad. Rather, this crowd was elated because two months earlier their Wall had been liberated from Jordanian rule by the Israel Defense Forces in the lightening war of six days. If there were tears, they were tears of joy.
On that, my first Tisha b'Av, I walked into my history. I felt ecstatic confused unbalanced and scared. In one evening I crossed over from the Gregorian calendar to Jewish time.
That was the reason I had left Ohio, to explore Jewish time. It took another forty-three years to learn that my own Hebrew birthday was the First of Av, the month when happiness decreases in the world, according to the Sages. I was tied by birth to the month of destruction.
Fortunately I've stuck around long enough to learn about the Fifteenth of Av and the Messiah named Menachem, who will appear in this month and whose main trait is compassion, of which the world, from Cleveland to Jerusalem, is sorely in need.
Welcome to my blog and web site.
An American-Israeli writer, I mentor writers and organize writing classes in English in Israel. Latest publication: “Side Effects” in Harpur Palate, Vol. 18, No.1
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Guest Blog at Lisa Romeo Writes Sept. 12, 2014
Ilene Prusher interviews Judy Labensohn on Let's Get Lit at internet radio TLV1.fm
The heat has me feeling like Dish Below, so I’m grateful for this piece that has taken my mind off the weather for a few minutes.
If you had spent one of your summer vacations at Habonim Camp Na’ame, in southern California, you would certainly have known about Dish Above, which we marked with a ceremony around the pool (and *not* in bathing suits, though the significance of the pool escapes me now).
We also taught the campers about the “anusim” by bringing sand into the dining hall (what a mess that made). It was probably a case of the blind leading the blind, but at least something was imparted. Not to mention Zionist values, but that’s another story.
Thanks for writing this– I don’t feel nearly as alone in my lack of Jewish history– however, at Rabbi Silver’s Temple we might not have gotten the meaning of Dish Above, but we for sure know about the destruction of at least one temple. I can really feel the energy of the pilgrimage you made to the Wall in 1967. So glad you are writing!
Thanks, Jane, for your comment. It’s nice to know I have a former member of former Silver’s Temple reading about my relationship to Judaism. For many years I thought my Reform education was a cup half empty, but over the years I became grateful for the cup half full.