Asara BíTevet- a little too close to home

Dedicated in memory of Yael Yekutiel zĒl, Shir Hajaj zĒl, Shira Tzur zĒl, Erez Orbach zĒl, the soldiers who were murdered in the Terror Attack on Asara BíTevet in Jerusalem

On Asara BíTevet (the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet which we commemorated this past Sunday) we fast and mourn the fact that Nevuchadnetzar, King of Babylonia began his siege of Jerusalem which in the end led to the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash (Temple).

According to Jewish law, we are obligated to fast on Asara BíTevet. We also recite Selichot, prayers of repentance which set the tone of the day.

This past Asara BíTevet, in Jerusalem, we did not need to put ourselves into a state of mourning as we were forced into it against our will.

While driving home from the Baka neighborhood to our neighborhood of Talpiot-Arnona (usually a five minute drive) at 1:50 pm, I heard an announcement on the radio that there was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. As we approached the traffic light on Yehuda Street which leads from Baka up to Talpiot-Arnona, I saw that the road was closed. After sitting in traffic on the main street, Derech Hevron, I found that Chanoch Albek, the other road to enter our neighborhood, was also closed off with only police cars and ambulances permitted to go through. There were helicopters overhead and it was announced on the radio that an Arab-Israeli truck driver with Israeli license plates came out of the neighboring Arab village of Jabel el Mukaber and purposely drove into a group of soldiers at the Tayelet- Promenade.

The Tayelet, just two blocks from our home is the overlook where one can view from afar the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Aside from the Kotel, the Tayelet is one of the most popular places to read Megillat Eicha (Lamentations) on the eve of Tisha BíAv.

We felt like our neighborhood was under siege as we were not permitted to drive in.

I decided to go back to the Baka neighborhood to park and just walk home. We heard sirens wailing as the police and paramedics worked on getting all of the injured to the hospital. We were not yet aware of all of the details and the fact that four soldiers had been killed.

As we say in the Ezkera prayer (part of the Slichot service of Asara BíTevet):

See my affliction and hear the sound of my prayer.

Hear my supplication, please hasten my salvation.

Do not avert your ear from my sigh, from my cry.

We learn in the Talmud, Rosh Hashana 18b, Rav Chana Bar Bizna said in the name of Rav Shimon Chasida: At the time when there is peace, the fast days will turn into days of joy and happiness. But when there is no peace, they will remain fast days.

This past Asara BíTevet we learned that although Jerusalem is now a major city, it is still not entirely rebuilt and it is not fully at peace so as of now, we need to continue to fast on the days that commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem.

May peace be restored speedily in our days and may we merit the opportunity to see these sad days converted into days of joy and gladness.