by Yori Yalon, Yehuda Shlezinger and Efrat Forsher
Worshippers gather in the Old City of Jerusalem to mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples • Many march around the city walls "to strengthen the unity of Jerusalem" • Youth groups gather in Tel Aviv for discussions about Tisha B'Av.
Thousands of worshipers gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Saturday evening to mark the beginning of Tisha B'Av, the fast day marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Many participated in readings of the book of Lamentations and in a traditional march around the walls of the Old City carrying Israeli flags.
One of the leaders of the Women in Green organization, Yehudit Katzover, said, "The march is to mark the sovereignty of Jerusalem and the land of Israel. The goal is to strengthen the unity of Jerusalem. It all depends on our actions. I would like to thank Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for his decision to station additional police officers in every neighborhood in Jerusalem. This proves that Jerusalem is unified and that terrorism will not win."
Nadia Matar, who also belongs to the organization, which seeks to safeguard the land of Israel for the Jewish people, said Saturday evening, "Our message is that we are surrounding the Temple Mount in order to say that it is ours. The march this year is to mark sovereignty over the land of Israel. I hope that next year, we will be able to ascend the Temple Mount, the place where the people of Israel are supposed to be at the height of their glory."
At the same time, dozens of people marked Tisha B'Av at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday night. Members of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement, Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed (the Federation of Working and Studying Youth) and the Dror Israel Movement set up a tent at the central site, where some participants read the book of Lamentations, and rabbis and cultural figures, including Israel Prize laureate Erez Biton, gave lectures.
Bnei Akiva Secretary General Danny Hirschberg noted that this Tisha B'Av is the third year that the youth groups set up what he called the "dialogue tent."
Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed coordinator Roi Yesod added: "We chose to insist on holding deep dialogue among the youth groups and with the public because, from our point of view, this is the best way to create an Israeli society with Jewish and democratic values as its cornerstone.
"There are disagreements among the youth groups, but there are also important agreements -- that every dispute be decided upon within the framework of democracy and that Rabbi Akiva's words, 'Beloved is man for he was created in the image [of God]' relates to all human beings. The joint study between young people and older people that happens in the tent is a vaccine against the recurrence of the destruction of the Temple."
Meanwhile, hundreds of police officers, Border Police officers and volunteers were stationed throughout the Old City and near the Western Wall on Saturday night in an effort to ensure security for those participating in Tisha B'Av events.
On Sunday evening, police will prepare for the wave of worshippers expected to arrive at the Western Wall to mark the end of the fast. The Old City will be closed to outside traffic from 5:00 p.m. onwards.
Yori Yalon, Yehuda Shlezinger and Efrat Forsher
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