A miracle took place in Jerusalem this month. On the surface, that’s not so extraordinary. Perhaps more than anyplace else, Jerusalem is the capital of miracles, in both biblical and modern times.
This month, Jews worldwide observed what’s known the saddest day on the calendar, Tisha B’Av, the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av. Tisha B’Av is the saddest day because on it, the same day on the Jewish calendar, both Temples were destroyed, first by the Babylonians and then by the Romans, hundreds of years apart. Zechariah prophesied that this will eventually become a feast day.
Not only did these cataclysmic events happen on the 9th of Av, but there’s a long list of other calamities that befell the Jewish people on the same day over the centuries. (Feel free to email for a list.) Unfortunately, over the centuries, most of the things that took place were in the name of “the church.” This represents a foundation in hatred of Jews, replacement theology, and intolerance of Jews living among gentiles.
Jewish tradition is that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred among Jews. This challenges us specifically at this season, to be mindful of our interpersonal behavior. If you lived in a Jewish community, you’d hear injunctions to avoid lashon hara, literally evil speech, including meanspirited comments and speaking badly about one another.
The opposite of baseless hatred is unconditional love. That’s what we strive for as Jews. But this year, miraculously, we were joined for the first time, and had a new standard set, by a group of righteous Christians. Just a mile from where the Temples stood, Christians from throughout the nations joined the Jewish people in mourning, and repentance. They joined the Jewish people fasting, and hearing the mournful recitation of Lamentations.
Mourning the destruction of the Temples is in solidarity with the Jewish people. But the repentance was due to evils propagated against the Jewish people in the name of “the church.” They prayed for restoration of the Temple, and for healing a rift created and exacerbated by people who professed their same Christian faith. As noted in Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers up his faults will not succeed; He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy.”
The Nations 9th of Av conference was not unique in that there’s a growing trend of Christians standing with Israel and the Jewish people based on solid biblical principles. The increase of Christians standing with Israel today has solid biblical precedents among gentiles such as Eliezer, Jethro, and Ruth.
But it is unprecedented that Christians would stand with Israel by sitting on the ground in mourning, fasting, and praying in somber solidarity with the Jewish people. Until now.
I asked Bob O’Dell, one of the visionaries behind it the Nations 9th of Av, what motivated and inspired the program.
“The inspiration came from the personal experiences and callings of those who actively worked over the last year to plan the event. While coming to Israel was central to the idea, God put it on my heart that it should be much more.”
“We needed to do something about the historical tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people by the hands of Christians, or in the name of Christ.”
O’Dell continued noting the prophesy of Zechariah to turn the fast day into a feast day. “This both encourages us to come alongside the Jewish people as they mourn the loss of the Temples and pray for it to be rebuilt. Simultaneously this opens the door that this should become a day of remembrance for Christians to stand against anti-Semitism forever.”
Great time and commitment went into publishing two books to complement the program in Jerusalem and to offer a hands-on experience among those praying and participating in Israel and throughout the nations. “The LIST” is a detailed and well-researched exposure of the reality of Christian history and its role propagating anti-Semitism that led to many of these horrors.
While as many as 100 Jews and Christians participated in the biggest Jerusalem event, some 2500 people participated, prayed, and joined in repentance at “events in the nations” in more than 30 different cities.
The Nations 9th of Av also included week of touring and learning. Participants focused on connecting with Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. This afforded many of the Christians to have the chance for God to speak to them individually and enable them to “grab onto the hem” of Jews and walk alongside them in the visions God was calling those Jews to fulfill.
For most of the participants, the biggest and most meaningful achievement of the week was reflected in how Christians were touched by hearing Lamentations being chanted as the mournful fast day began, while looking out upon the Temple Mount.
In a way that almost replicates how Israel pivots from the national mourning of Memorial Day to the celebration of Independence Day every year, The Nations 9th of Av conference added a festive element in breaking the fast to end the day of mourning. In the last moments of the fast, Christian participants beseeched God that next year should be the year that the 9th of Av becomes a feast day. Jews and Christians invoked the traditional Hebrew phrase together, “Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem.”
O’Dell mentioned some of the most unexpected outcomes. He cited having many “seasoned Christians, strong in prayer, and strong in love for Israel, many of whom had been to Israel many times before. “What I didn’t expect that so many said, ‘this event was life-changing for me.’” This came to pass after the touring, fellowshipping with many Orthodox Jews, and seeing their faith in action.
Going forward, O’Dell shared why this is important, and how and why Christians can participate in the future. “I would say that God is gracious and tries to meet us where we are. I have no power to make people want to take note of the 9th of Av, or to see our role in the past and to want to repent. For Christians who don’t see this need, I bless them and wish them success in the areas that God has called them to work. The work that God is doing in the worldwide Church is big, and there are many things that need to be done. We cannot expect that everyone will see things the same.”
“On the other hand, I would challenge them not to run away from the truth. Christians need to at least read through some significant parts of the book that we just published, The LIST: Persecution of Jews by Christians Throughout History. Christians need to know the truth, because as Christians we tell the world that we are supporters of the truth. The truth in this book needs to be known by every Christian.”
Only God knows if next year we will be feasting rather than fasting on the 9th of Av. But one thing is sure. With friends and initiatives like this, we are that much closer to realization of Zechariah’s prophesy.