Israel President Leads Nation in Tisha B’av Mourning; Banks Closed

All banks in Israel were closed today, and most Government offices were manned only by skeleton staffs, as the country observed Tisha b’Av, fasting and praying in commemoration of the destruction of the two Temples.

Opening the observance at sunset yesterday, all theaters, moviehouses, and cafes were shut down last night. At midnight, some 7,000 Israelis and tourists massed atop Mount Zion, where prayers were recited and the traditional lamentations chanted. Earlier, the usual decorations ornamenting the tomb of King David on the mountain were removed, being replaced temporarily by broken rocks. Among the pilgrims to this shrine, was Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.

President Zalman Shazar went by automobile to the village of Kfar Chabad, near Tel Aviv, where he worshiped with the Lubavitcher Hassidim, a sect of which he has been an adherent all his life. Like all the worshipers there, he sat on a low bench, shoeless, wearing a black yarmelke. His white-khaki-clad guards sat beside him, similarly in mourning.

In observance of this day of mourning, when Jews recall the destruction of the Temple, whose remaining West Wall is now inaccessible because it is in the Old City section held by the Jordanians, Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim issued a call to world opinion last night, requesting such access. He asked the world to “help redress this terrible wrong, whereby the Jordanians refuse to permit access to the Wailing Wall and other Jewish religious places in accordance with the provisions of the Israeli-Jordanian armistice agreement.”

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