President of Israel Isaac Herzog, on the eve of the Tisha B’Av fast in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago by the Romans, made a special plea to the opponents of the judicial reform being passed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to take a step back.
(Religious Jews around the world will observe a sundown to sundown fast from Wednesday night to Thursday night. This day is the saddest one on the Jewish calendar and completes a nine day period of mourning. The decades before the destruction in the year 70 were marked by much infighting and violence between competing Jewish groups in Israel and even the Talmud cites such “free hatred” as a reason why God allowed the Temple to be destroyed on this day.)
Since the first part of the government’s judicial reform plan passed on Monday, the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have seen more extreme demonstrations than were held since it was first unveiled in January. The opposition in Israel charges the plan would, in effect, end the ability of Israel’s Supreme Court to serve as a check on the powers of the government, thereby harming Israel’s democracy. There have also been a number of incidents of violence, including one where a driver ran over protestors who blocked a road.
“As we stand on the eve of Tisha B’Av – when we remember our national destruction – I want to appeal to you from the bottom of my heart,” President Herzog told the Israeli public.
“We are in the midst of extremely difficult time,” he said. “I see the pictures and hear the voices, in the streets, in the Knesset, and on social media. I see many Israelis, who care so deeply, who are so dedicated, who are filled with immense pain, frustration, and deep and real anxiety over what is happening – and what is yet to happen.”
“I am also in a turmoil of emotions. I am also hurting and I am also angry,” he added.
“I am more determined than ever, and not ready to give up and lose hope,” said Herzog, promising to continue to fight for a compromise even if there is only a slight chance of reaching one.
Herzog also called on everyone, on all sides, to avoid violence and irreparable steps saying, “There is no more important task, and no higher mission for me – as President and as a citizen – than healing and reuniting the people, and safeguarding the State of Israel and our democracy.”
On the matter if those threatening not to perform their military reserved duties, he called all of the IDF reservists and volunteers “patriots to their core, those who love the people and the country” and pleaded with those who oppose the government’s policies not to harm the security of the State of Israel and to reconsider their threats.
Herzog concluded his call for calm and political cooperation by saying that on the eve of Tisha B’Av “the echoes of history are crying out: it is the time for restraint, it is the time for responsibility, it is the time to vigilantly guard the supreme commandment that there can be no civil war. I believe in us. I believe that by working together we can turn Tisha B’Av – with our own hands and in the spirit of the words of the prophet – into a day of comfort.”
(According to the Talmud, when the Messiah comes days of mourning like Tisha B’Av will be turned into holidays.)
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