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Rabbi Untermann Upholds Tisha B’av As Mourning Day Although Jerusalem is Reunited

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Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Isser Untermann yesterday upheld the ninth of Av (Thursday) as a day of mourning despite the fact that Jerusalem is “no more a destroyed city.” The mourning and fasting of Tisha B’av (the ninth of Av) is observed to mark destruction of the First and Second Temples.

The prayers which note that Jerusalem was “destroyed, laid waste and despoiled,” are, in the opinion of many, anachronistic now that Jerusalem has been reunited and Jews are restored to the Old City. Rabbi Untermann said there was no contradiction between the festivities of Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the 1967 reunification of the city and return of Jews to the Wailing Wall, and the mourning of Tisha B’av. The latter he said should be retained as there is no reason to break age-old tradition.

In a related development, some 30 ultra-religious Jews, in an attempt to prevent further archaeological digging near the Western Wall, today held morning prayer at the digging site, preventing workers from renewing their chores. The workers were cautioned against interference with the services.

Some 300 persons, praying at the Western Wall, joined the demonstration and left the site several hours later only when they were warned that the police might be called. Prof. Benjamin Mazar, head of the excavation, said work will continue unless he receives instructions from the Government to discontinue operations.

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