9th of Av (August 8-9, 2011; July 28-29, 2012)
One of the most tragic dates in the Hebrew calendar, the ninth day of the month of Av commemorates not just one but several tragedies that befell the Jewish people on that date, from the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.
According to the Bible, the First Temple was built by King David’s son and heir Solomon in the 10th century BC, with materials and assistance from King Hiram I of Tyre and under the direction of Tyrian and Phoenician master-builders.
It was said to house the Ark of the Covenant, which was moved from the tent in which King David had deposited it. The Temple stood for six centuries.
The siege of Jerusalem in 589 BC ended with the razing of the Temple three years later.
The building of the First Temple has been studied by religious leaders and Freemasons alike (Solomon’s Temple is considered the symbolic foundation of Freemasonry). However, few remains of this era have been excavated from the site on which it once stood*. This may be partly because construction on the Second Temple began only 50 years after the fall of the first one, and partly because excavation on the Temple Mount is forbidden: In addition to being sacred to Judaism, the Temple Mount is the location of the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, two of the holiest sites in Islam, where Muhammad ascended to heaven (Isra wal Miraj) and where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son to God (Eid al-Adha).
The building of Second Temple was sanctioned by the Persian King Cyrus the Great and completed under Darius I in 516 BC. This temple stood for five centuries and was completely rebuilt around 16 BC by King Herod.
In 67 AD Judea rebelled against Roman occupation. Roman general (and future Emperor) Titus laid siege to Jerusalem. The siege culminated with the complete sack of the capital, the expulsion of the Jews, and the final destruction of the temple–again on Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av) in 70 AD.
Tisha B’Av begins tonight at sunset and continues until nightfall tomorrow.
*An October 2007 construction project unearthed remains believed to date from King Solomon’s Temple.