Today is the day when observant Jews recall the destruction of the Jewish Temples in Jerusalem - Tisha b'Ab. Growing up in Marrakesh, Therese Zrihen-Dvir remembers a day of intense but oddly comical mourning practices. The Dafina blog carries an extract from her book: Derriere les remparts du Mellah de Marrakech.
Hannah and her seven martyred Macabee sons symbolise the Jewish resistance to assimilation. They have inspired painters through the ages.
I was only eight or nine years old and was horrified at the sight of women in mourning, scratching at their faces and tearing their black clothes as they danced to a macabre rhythm while uttering sharp little squeals. We found it rather comical, albeit distressingly tragic.
These sad traditional practices would be repeated on the ninth day of the month of Av, which commemorated the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Myself, I knew nothing of the events being marked on that date. We children copied the adults without knowing or understanding what made them behave in this way. Custom dictated that we should spread ash on our heads, imitate their dancing, punctuated by strident little cries and scratch at our faces and rend our clothing. We continued such sinister folk customs under the noses of our elders without them explaining why we did them. We were simply content to ape them, and that was all that mattered.
I remember coming home to my grandparents, my cheeks glowing after making fun of these mourning practices. Grandma scolded me and as a punishment banned me from going out with my friends. When she recovered her composure, I approached her and told her I would never again do such wicked deeds. "But Grandma, I asked,"why do we do these things?"
The grandmother then told the child the story of Hannah and her seven sons, who chose martyrdom rather than abandon their Jewish identity.
Read article in full (French)