The Fast of Ninth of Av — also known as the Jewish Fast of Av or ‘Tisha B’Av’ — is observed in July or August every year and this year, it falls on August 13. It’s an annual holiday observed in Jewish communities across the world. It is a somber period where people fast, mourn, and pray to commemorate five major tragic events that occurred on the day in the past. The Fast of Ninth of Av commences just before sunset on the previous day and lasts until nightfall the next day — totaling about 25 hours. Whenever Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat (Saturday), it’s called a ‘nidche’ in Hebrew (‘delayed’) and the day is then observed on the following day (that is, Sunday). Since it’s a day of mourning and fasting, Jews abstain from partying, sexual activities, bathing or washing, eating meat or drinking wine (except on the Shabbat), and cutting their hair.
History of Fast of Ninth of Av
The Fast of Ninth of Av (‘Tisha B’Av’) is a yearly observance that remembers the five major calamities and tragedies that befell the nation of Israel around that particular day throughout history. These events include the negative reports about the “Promised Land” given by 10 of the 12 spies sent out by Moses to Canaan. These reports caused the Israelites to panic, cry, and despair. The other events include the destruction of the first and second temples of Jerusalem. Led by King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians pillaged and ruined the first temple built by King Solomon in 586 B.C. The Romans burnt down the second temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah in 70 A.D., commencing a protracted exile period for the people of Israel.
Also, the Roman army captured the city of Beitar — the fortress city of the Bar Kokhba (or Kochba) revolt — leading to the massacre of about 580,000 Jewish civilians on August 4, 135 A.D. Subsequently, Roman commander Turnus Rufus leveled the site of the Jerusalem temple and its surrounding area in 135 A.D., and the city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 136 A.D.
In more recent history, Tisha B’Av’ is also used to remember other calamities which occurred on or around the Ninth of Av. Some of these tragedies include the First Crusade which began on August 15, 1096, where 10,000 Jews were killed in its first month, the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492, as well as the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Also, on August 2, 1941, German commander Heinrich Himmler gained the Nazi Party’s approval for the Holocaust which claimed the lives of about six million Jews — nearly one-third of the world’s Jewish population.
Fast of Ninth of Av timeline
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroys King Solomon’s temple and exiles the population of the Kingdom of Judah.
The Roman army destroys the city of Betar, killing over 500,000 Jewish civilians.
The Jews are expelled from Spain on July 31.
Following Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Jewish settlers are expelled from Gush Katif and the northern West Bank on the day after Tisha B'Av.
Fast of Ninth of Av FAQs
What are the Nine Days of Av?
The Nine Days of Av are a time of spiritual observance and remembrance in Judaism marked during the first nine days of the Jewish month of Av (corresponding to July/August). The Nine Days of Av begin on Rosh Chodesh Av (‘First of Av’) and end on the public fast day of Tisha B’Av (‘Ninth of Av’).
Is today the Ninth of Av?
Like all the days on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av, which is the ninth day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar, depends on the lunar calendar.
Do you have to fast on Tisha B’Av?
Refraining from eating and drinking for 25 hours beginning on Tisha B’Av is compulsory for traditional Jews. The only ones excluded from the fast are those who are ill.
How to Observe Fast of Ninth of Av
Adhere to the prohibitions
During the Fast of Ninth of Av, it’s important to observe the five major prohibitions. Refrain from eating and drinking, do not wash or bathe, avoid marital (sexual) relations, abstain from using creams or oils, and don’t wear leather shoes.
Attend synagogue services
The scroll of Eicha (the Book of Lamentations), mourning the destruction of Jerusalem is read in the synagogue. This is followed by the recitation of ‘kinnot’ (liturgical dirges) lamenting the destruction of the temples and Jerusalem.
Give to charity
Tisha B’Av is a national day of mourning and repentance. It’s also customary to give to charity on this day.
5 Interesting Facts About Israel
Reviving a dead language
Israel is the only country in the world that has succeeded in reviving a dead language and using it as its national language.
Home to beautiful beaches
Israel has 137 beautiful beaches for all kinds of fun outdoor activities.
The oldest tree in Israel
The oldest tree in Israel is the Jujube tree in Ein Hatzeva on the road to Eilat, believed to be around 1,500 to 2,000 years old.
Letters to God
Israel Postal Service has a special ‘Letters to God’ department, which deals with all the letters addressed to God sent to Jerusalem from around the world.
World’s smallest desert
The Judean desert has been identified as the smallest desert in the world.
Why Fast of Ninth of Av is Important
A solemn remembrance
The Fast of Ninth of Av is a somber annual commemoration of the various tragedies that the Jewish people have witnessed. It’s a time to grieve and remember the lost ones — the victims of the various attacks on Israel.
Mourning the loss of the temples
The majority of the morning hours of Ninth of Av are spent chanting or reading Kinnot. It’s a time to bewail the loss of the glorious temples, the subsequent persecutions, and the post-exile disasters.
A time to pray
It’s a time to pray for Israel and the Jewish community around the world. It’s also a time to pray for the earnest arrival of the Messiah.
Fast of Ninth of Av dates