50,000 Attend Tisha B’av Services at Western Wall in Old City of Jerusalem

A mixture of mourning and elation was apparent here today as nearly 50,000 people made a traditional pilgrimage to the Western Wall in the old section of Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av, to lament the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The Book of Lamentations was read, and Orthodox Jews observed the custom of disposing of their shoes and arriving with unshaven faces.

The opportunity to observe the day at the Western Wall–and Jewish possession of the former Temple grounds for the first time since the suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt, some 800 years ago–caused exaltation among the worshipers, even though the Chief Rabbinates had proclaimed the occasion a day of mourning. President Zalman Shazar was among those who came to the Wall for the observance.

Cafes and places of entertainment throughout Israel were closed on the eve of Tisha B’Av, and remained closed until the end of the mourning period. In accordance with tradition, and by order of the Rabbinate, Orthodox Jews fasted today.

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