“These were especially moving moments, yesterday at the Western Wall”, wrote Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel, to me. “We sat there, during the final hours of the Tish’a B’Av fast, with thousands of boys and girls from the USA. They came to Israel for the summer, on many different educational programs, sponsored by OU’s NCSY. During the summer vacation they studied, volunteered, traveled and had a good time. Some of them do not even attend Jewish schools in the USA, and this is their only annual encounter with Israel, Zionism and Judaism. The last few hours of the fast are especially difficult, as we know, but they can also be very uplifting. And then it happened: the thousands of young Americans formed big circles, and sang for an entire hour, soul-filled songs, full of yearning: ‘Rachem’, ‘Higi’a Zman Ge’ulatchem’, ‘Hashivenu HaShem Eleicha V’Nashuva’, and many others. All the experiences that they have had in Israel, all of their connection to the Land – it all poured out of them. We, Israelis, usually think that we should teach the Jews who live abroad to love Israel and Jerusalem or to help them understand the Jewish holidays. It is obvious to us that we understand Tish’a B’Av better than them. And here, a surprise: sometimes they are moved by things which we take for granted. Thousands of Israelis stood around them yesterday in awe, excited and moved to see the enthusiasm and devotion of these young people, and slowly they joined in, in their singing.”
Sivan Rahav-Meir is a media personality and lecturer. Married to Yedidya, the mother of five. Lives in Jerusalem. She works for Israel TV news, writes a column for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, and hosts a weekly radio show on Galei Zahal (Army Radio). Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds and the live broadcast attracts thousands more listeners throughout the world.