Fast Days, especially the serious ones, are such odd entities of time. Well, 9 Av in particular, it's serious enough that you're not supposed to focus anything non-Fast related until at least midday, but it's not a chag, like Yom Kippur when we spend all day in shul. so you end up in this odd half-zone where you sleep as late as you can (without missing morning prayers of course) and spend the rest of the morning on the floor reading Holocaust literature. After that the day is usually made up of naps, shopping for food for after the fast, and cooking food for after the fast. Plus it's always hot, so we try to move as little as possible, especially outside the house, to conserve water resources and avoid dehydration.
If you're a really good jew and can concentrate, you'll go to all sorts of lectures and shiurim and videos about/related to the fast. I personally lack the concentation and patience to listen to a shiur, especially one about death and destruction, with no food and no caffeine in my system.
After hearing Aicha in Yemin Moshe, my friends and I walked, theoretically in the vague direction of this other Aicha reading in the Old City (can I just say here, that there's something odd about treating Tisha Bi'Av like Simchat Torah- a day to wander from place to place to check out "what's going on" everywhere?) but as we got closer we were clearly drawn only toward the Kotel. The social scene, when we got there, was ridiculous. But it's always like that, especially on days that are supposed to be holy, meaningful, or important in some way; everyone goes to the Kotel. As my friend said to me, it's the center. It draws us.
One of my teachers used to tell us that the best time to be at the Kotel was three in the morning: no one there, no one pushing or crowding. You can concentrate on your thoughts and the importance of the place, spiritually, historically, religously. That that's the best time and place for real introspection, and it'll be your best bet for a meaningful experience at our nation's holiest site. which I've kind of always agreed with, since people have a tendency to annoy me anyway.
So my first thought, that night on the ninth of Av, was that I definitely wanted to be in this place on this day - ground zero on it's personal anniversary. But not with all the shoving obnoxous crowds who knock you off your feet as you're trying to pray, making it impossible to concentrate, with the whole social scene going on in the background. So I thought I'd simply hang around until late, wait till everyone else had gone, and do my praying then.
But as I sat, first on the ground on the worn and slippery stones, then later in the dust, above, with a view, watching the turmoil of my people moving, pushing, glorying on a day when they had been defeated once again, in the middle of yet another war, and still shouting; it occured to me that maybe this was not the day for introspection. It is not the day for the pain of the individual. It is a day when we suffer together as a klal, to commemorate all the other days and times whe we have suffered together as a klal. Today is not a day about me, not a day about alone time. Today the best time and place to daven would davka be in the middle of my people as they shoved and shouted and prayed and cried altogether, fighting to be in the exct same place at the exact same time. We are all drawn here for a reason, and so we come, inadvertently or not, altogether for the same reason. G-d is part communist, I think; He likes us to be in it for each other, to be thinking about the Everyone. So.
So I too shoved and insinuated and struggled my way up to the wall - which, if you think about it as a metaphor for, almost anything really, is how it really should be done - and I got knocked over and off balance as I prayed, shockeling and swaying to the rythem of the surging crowd, and yelling in my head You see this, G-d? You see us? This is the point! Not only are we still here, we're still HERE. In this place, Your place, our place, on the anniversary of its destruction, because no matter how mny times You beat us up and beat us back, we sill keep coming. We will always keep coming. No amount of blood or battery can ever keep the Jew away, not for good. This is our struggle, and this is our glory.
That counts for something, right? It should count for a lot. And yet, how much can instinct and nature really take credit for, that doesn't choose but only drives?
It is not for me to know or decide such things, but only to see them. I only know that we are tired, so tired, but getting our 150,000th wind and getting back in the ring. After awhile you learn you don't actually need energy. just a little more adrenaline, a little more caffeine, and you keep going without any. Just because you have to. Just because that's what we are.