For traditional Jews, the Three Weeks are the darkest period on the Hebrew calendar. The period, which starts on the 17th day of Tammuz and ends on the ninth day of Av (Tisha b’Av, next Tuesday) when both Holy Temples in ancient Jerusalem fell, to the Babylonians and Romans, respectively.
Observant Jews refrain from haircuts, weddings and other signs of public celebration during the Three Weeks, a semi-mourning period that is considered inauspicious for the Jewish nation. On Tisha b’Av, a major fast day, tens of thousands of Jews gather at the Western Wall, above, for prayers and recital of Eicha (Lamentations).
This year, all of Israel is marking a more contemporary Three Weeks; the war against Hamas in Gaza, which has cost dozens of Jewish lives, mostly members of the Israeli army, began three weeks ago, following the murders of the three Israeli yeshiva students who had been kidnapped.
According to Jewish custom, the month of Av (Menachem Av, the Av of consolation) is historically an unfortunate time for the Jewish people, and Tisha b’Av carries particularly bad fortune. In Av, many Jews avoid starting business enterprises, initiating lawsuits or beginning other efforts that need an extra measure of heavenly blessing.
No one in Israel needs a reminder that the darkest days of 2014’s Three Weeks are taking place in Av.
The Three Weeks of Jewish tradition will end on Tuesday; Israel will be praying that the modern Three Weeks, which will extend into their fourth week next week, will also end on Tisha b’Av.