mending the breach of the 17th of tammuz,

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    17th Tammuz, that's Homer used to food?..................Fast finishes at 6.06pm.........and I'm already hungry!

    Jul. 16, 2003

    By Michael Freund

    Israel's primary fortification - confidence in its just cause - has been dangerously undermined

    Tomorrow is the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, one of the least known yet most pertinent fast days on the Jewish calendar.

    Though the date itself is associated with a number of tragic events that occurred throughout Jewish history, there is one which stands out and whose relevance to Israel's current situation is particularly worthy of note.

    According to the rabbis of the Talmud (Ta'anit 28b), it was on the 17th of Tammuz that the walls around Jerusalem were first breached by the invading Roman legions, who proceeded to capture the city and burn the Second Temple to the ground over 19 centuries ago. (Errr, anyone care to work out when Mo was born?...........................I'll make it easy for you......the pedophaelic p r i c k was born 500 years later............................Snooker)

    At first glance this would hardly seem to qualify as an event warranting its own special day of fasting and mourning down through the generations. After all, of what historical consequence is a breach in Jerusalem's walls so long ago, and what does it have to do with Israel's daily struggle to survive in the 21st century? The answer is quite simple, yet heartbreakingly profound: When the emperor Vespasian's forces, under the command of his son, Titus, succeeded in penetrating Jerusalem's defenses and broke through the walls protecting the city, it marked nothing less than the beginning of the end for the ancient Jewish state.

    The Jews of the time put up a valiant fight, as the historian Josephus describes in Book Six of The Jewish War, adopting increasingly desperate measures in an effort to stave off the Roman onslaught.

    But just three weeks later, on Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, the Temple was destroyed. Jerusalem fell and the Jewish people were sent into exile - a national calamity from which we have yet to fully emerge.

    Indeed, the tragedies and suffering that have befallen our people in the ensuing 2,000 years - the Crusades and the Inquisition, the Cossacks and the pogroms, on through the Holocaust - all can be traced back to that fateful day, the 17th of Tammuz, when the first Roman soldier succeeded in breaking through the wall surrounding Jerusalem.

    Had the city not fallen, had the Jews not been defeated, the exile might never have occurred, along with all the death and despair that has accompanied it throughout the ages.

    IN OUR own time a similar breach has occurred in Israel's defenses, as the country's physical security and national psyche are under assault as never before. Like the Romans of old, the Palestinians and their allies have besieged the Jewish state diplomatically and militarily, penetrating Israel's defenses and terrorizing the public.

    Israel's primary fortification - its confidence in the justness of its cause - has been breached in recent years, leaving the country dangerously exposed to tragedy and possibly even defeat.

    Many Israelis, including the prime minister himself, have fallen victim to this phenomenon as their ideology and belief systems have collapsed under the weight of the onslaught.

    And so we find ourselves, 10 years after the butchery of Oslo began, with a Likud-led government ready to divide the Land of Israel and forcibly expel tens of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

    The sovereign government of the State of Israel is prepared to do what no other nation on earth would countenance - agree to the establishment of a terrorist entity alongside its borders, in the process foregoing its basic obligation to preserve the safety and well-being of its citizens.

    The 17th of Tammuz, then, stands as an important warning, a date that cries out across the ages to us, warning Israel to mend the breach, to repair the cracks that have emerged in our sense of purpose and mission before it is too late.

    Had the Jews nearly two millennia ago ceased to fight among themselves, had they rallied together with repentance and resolve, they might very well have emerged triumphant.

    And so can we.

    We must reaffirm our belief that this land is ours, and only ours, and that no power on earth has the right to take it away from us. Israel must stop paying heed to the critics and self-doubters who question the very legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise and seek to strip it of anything remotely Jewish.

    By returning to ourselves and to our land and re-embracing the values and traditions that have preserved us as a people, we can stem the tide toward capitulation and reassert an element of control over an increasingly perilous situation.

    And so, by denying ourselves food and drink tomorrow and recalling the events of the 17th of Tammuz in ancient Jerusalem, we will be doing far more than just remembering the past.

    If we take it truly to heart, we can influence the future as well.

    The writer served as deputy director of communications and policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office.
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