For Jews, the 9th of Av, also known as Tisha B’Av, is a 25-hour fast spent mourning over the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem. This year, Tisha B’Av begins at sundown on Wednesday, July 29 and ends at sundown Thursday, July 30.
A remarkable group of Christians, sensitive to the bloody history of Christian anti-Semitism, have chosen this exact day, the 9th day of Hebrew month of Av, for what Breaking Israel News reporter Adam Eliyah Berkowitz called “a powerful act of contrition by Christians.”
Beginning in 2018, and continuing in a dramatically expanded way in 2019, there is a movement in the Christian world to use the 9th of Av to repent for the atrocities committed against the Jewish people in the name of Christianity over the past two millennia.
The original plan was to hold a week-long program in Israel around the 9th of Av, but because COVID-19 has shut Israel’s borders to tourists, the Nations’ 9th of Av planning committee prepared a completely virtual experience for 2020, including lectures, prayer events and virtual tours of Israel for Christians worldwide.
This year’s Nations’ 9th of Av planning and prayer team includes: Sister Georjean Allenbach, Bob O’Dell, Al McCarn, Donna Matts, Barbara Wilkins, Matthew Wearp, Steve Wearp and Laura Densmore.
Something New For 2020
This year’s event, which runs online July 28-August 6, includes yet another new dimension, something the Nations’ 9th of Av Board member Barbara Wilkins called “putting ‘feet’ to our prayers.”
Touched by a personal visit with a Holocaust survivor couple living in Israel, Breaking Israel News Publisher Rabbi Tuly Weisz suggested to the Nations’ 9th of Av Board that making a donation to assist this elderly couple would enhance their mission of repentance. The Nations 9th of Av Board unanimously agreed.
Weisz described the couple’s story. During the Holocaust, Chanoch Hoffman was six years old when his father was taken away from the family home. Before he left, the father put his hat on the six-year-old’s head and charged him with being the man of the family. He was told, “It’s your job to take care of your mother and your younger brother,” Weisz related, “and it gave me the chills. It was very emotional to hear that.”
Hoffman fulfilled his father’s wishes and cared for his younger brother and mother who also survived the war living in a ghetto in Budapest.
Sadly, according to Weisz, “Mr. Hoffman’s health is declining and his needs are increasing. He has not only Parkinson’s disease, but he also has dementia. He doesn’t even recognize his wife. It’s a lot on the wife, who is elderly herself, to take care of him.” They need a number of renovations to their home, including a ramp outside of their house, renovations for him to enter the bathroom in his wheelchair and specific equipment to get him in and out of bed.
Weisz said, “I told the Hoffmans two things. Number one is that you told your father you’re going to look after your family when you were a child and now, in your old age, I’m telling you, we’re going to help take care of you. And I said that this help will come through the generosity of Christians who love Israel and love the Jewish people.
“Mrs. Hoffman was so blown away by that. She thanked me profusely, from the bottom of her heart. It really meant a lot to her that Christians would be so moved by repenting for Christian anti-Semitism by compassionately caring for Holocaust survivors. She asked me to thank them on her behalf.”
Putting Feet To Prayer
For 9th of Av Board members, caring for Holocaust survivors is a natural extension of the repentance work in which they are already engaged.
Board member Al McCarn told Breaking Israel News, “This gift, going directly to help a Holocaust survivor in the days leading up to Tisha b’Av, testifies of our desire to see healing and reconciliation between Christians and Jews. We can’t make up for the untold suffering Christians have inflicted on Jews over the past 20 centuries, but this humble act is a gesture of hope that we can build a better future together.”
Fellow Board member Laura Densmore explained that, “Each one of the nine hours of prayer is focused on a theme for that hour. One of those hours (from 4-5pm EST on July 30) is focused on prayers of repentance regarding the Holocaust.
“The principle of teshuva (repentance) involves a change of mind, a change of heart and a change in behavior/actions, which can include making amends or restitution for the past wrongdoings.
“It is a joy and an honor for the Nations’ 9th of Av team to make a financial contribution to the Holocaust Survivor Fund to bless Holocaust survivors. Our repentance must go from our head, to our heart, and finally, to our feet,” she shared.
Last year was Barbara Wilkins’ first experience with the Nations’ 9th of Av and today, she’s an active member of the planning committee. “As we planned for this year’s event in Israel, it became apparent we would not be able to travel there, and our hearts were grieved for our Jewish partners in the Land over the disconnects to tourism and income that people from other Nations coming in provides.”
Instead, travel funds are being used, “To try and bless, in loving support, those in need. In Christianity we call it putting ‘feet’ to our prayers. It’s one thing to pray, but another to support. We pray that all our efforts brought forth to the Nations’ 9th of Av Virtual Tour event this year will bless our Jewish friends and partners as well as all who view it and participate in the nine hours of prayer kicking off this event,” Wilkins elaborated.
Noting how the Hebrew Scripture focuses on action, Board member Steve Wearp told Breaking Israel News, “I believe God’s people are called to be people of action. And I see all that throughout the Torah. Abraham took his family, packed it up and left. You see Moses doing the same. You see Jacob doing the same when he’s leaving Laban. Everything that I see in the Torah is people of action making a difference – Joshua going into the Promised Land, the people of Israel, building the Temple as a house for God to dwell on Mount Moriah. Everything is action.
“So for me, giving just a little bit to help a survivor, is the minimum I could do. And I pray my life and the lives of many others, all the nations, will someday come alongside, and bless the Lord, and bless the Jewish people. If you bless, you’ll be blessed. If you call insignificant or don’t pay attention to the Jewish people, God says you’ll actually be cursed or cut off.
“This is huge. This is not insignificant, because Israel bears the name, Israel bears the testimony of God. We are seeing His faithfulness. So I would just call all Christians, we [the Nations’ 9th of Av Board] shouldn’t be the exception. We should be the norm.”
Christian interest in the 9th of Av began when two Christian men gradually uncovered the truth about the myriad of sins committed against the Jewish people in the name of the church throughout Christian history. They intuitively understood that they had to share these shocking facts with other Christians.
The two men, Bob O’Dell and Ray Montgomery, chose the 9th of Av, the traditional Jewish day of mourning, to raise awareness and encourage Christians worldwide to repent for centuries of bloody acts of antisemitism.
You can join the Nations’ 9th of Av repentance with a donation to the Israel365 Charity Fund Holocaust survivor campaign.