JERUSALEM (Aug. 1)
Some 70,000 Israelis and tourists gathered here yesterday for the annual Tisha b’Av observance at the Western Wall, commemorating the destruction of the Second Temple 1901 years ago. Since the ninth of Av occurred on the Sabbath this year, the fast was observed from yesterday sundown to sundown today. Places of entertainment, cafes and restaurants were closed throughout the country last night and banks and government offices were closed today. Thousands of Israelis and tourists attended synagogue services and an atmosphere of mourning prevailed. Visitors at the Western Wall gathered in groups to read the Book of Lamentations and to chant its kinot (dirges). Others came to the Wall to meet old friends, make new ones or simply wandered over the area to inspect the scene of the great carnage of 70 CE. Among the mourners was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco, who arrived in Israel on Thursday for about a week of political consultations with Israeli leaders. All political activities here, including the Sisco discussions and today’s weekly Cabinet meeting, were cancelled for the duration of the fast, as Tisha b’Av is considered in Israel – even in some non-Orthodox circles – as a national day of mourning. But the ultra-Orthodox issued a call for a mass demonstration last night in the Zichron Moshe quarter to protest autopsies. the called-for rally came in the wake of the State Comptroller’s report that 3243 autopsies were conducted in hospitals across the country in recent months.