Tisha B’Av, also called the Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of mourning for Jews around the world. On this day, they commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, including events reaching back to ancient times — the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE by the Babylonians and the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 CE. The Holocaust and the start of World War I are also associated with this day.
Also called the “darkest day” of the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av is observed with prayers, fasting, and very specific mourning behavior which prohibits bathing, marital relations, wearing luxuries like leather shoes, and idle chatter or leisure activities. At night the synagogue is darkened, and The Book of Eicha (Lamentations) is read by candlelight.
Mourners also gather at the Wailing Wall (remains of the second temple) to recite kinot for the dead, and in some communities blow the shofar at the end of the fast as an expression of hope for the future.
Blowing the Shofar at the Wailing Wall. (photo: Johnathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)