Tisha B’Av: Is the headline interfaith fasting or Romney?

We think the headline on the Jewish fast of Tisha B’Av should be:
Jews Join Muslims in Fasting.
After all, it’s a rare convergence of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan with the 25-hour-long Jewish fast that mournfully recalls the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. As these religious groups fast together, this could be an occasion for building spiritual bridges.

However, the rest of the world’s news media is putting Tisha B’Av in hundreds of news stories about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel after his brief tour of the London Olympics. We do understand that Romney’s presidential candidacy is important religion-related news. But, most newspapers around the world are ignoring the fast itself this weekend to focus on the political and religious minefield Romney is entering. A sign that his campaign isn’t entirely up to speed on interfaith issues was an original plan to hold a fund-raising dinner during the fast—a plan that has been altered in various ways. One report points out that no one will eat at the Sunday fundraiser until after the sun sets. Another report says that the Romney focus now has moved to a gathering on Monday. And, reporters now are objecting to the Romney campaign’s decision to lock them out of the Sunday event.

What is Tisha B’Av?

Since you won’t find it elsewhere, here’s the story behind Tisha B’Av: According to Jewish tradition, Tisha B’Av marks the tragic date on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, although 655 years apart. (Wikipedia has details). In addition, Jews recall other tragedies: the sins of scouts sent by Moses; the destruction of the entire cit of Jerusalem that followed the Roman siege of 70 CE; and the failed Bar Kakhba revolt. (Learn more from Judaism 101.)

For 25 hours, Jews will fast from food and drink and observe traditional mourning customs. Often, the Book of Lamentations is read, among other solemn texts, and lamenting prayers are recited. In the synagogue, the ark—the home of the Torah—is draped in black. (Interested in a virtual tour of the Temple? Take one at Chabad.org.)

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