I have been writing new liturgy for Tisha b’Av since the mid-1990s, after realizing I couldn’t sit through another reading of Lamentations, with its basis in a metaphor portraying Jerusalem as a “whore.” As a feminist, I just couldn’t put aside the effect of hearing this read aloud. And so I began to try new kinds of structures and language, working with musical leader Karen Escovitz. Over the years this evolved as I became involved with Jewish groups working for Palestinian civil rights and began to use the liturgy to address issues in Palestine and Israel.
As a contemporary Jewish feminist and peace activist, I could not pray for the restoration of the Temple and the world view connected to it, but I could honor the vast sense of loss that the tradition of Tisha b’Av held. I’d felt that same loss in writings by Jews exiled from European homelands, and in writings by Palestinians driven into exile in the Nakba at the time of the creation of the Jewish state of Israel. As I tried to create a service for Jewish activists that would both resonate with our own cultural sense of loss AND give voice to our desire to honor the experience of our Palestinians allies, friends, and co-activists, I focused on this shared reality of exile as the theme of the service. As a poet myself, I constructed this service by looking for a mix of poems by Jewish, Arab, and Palestinian writers—a mix that would defy time, location and distance.
Below you will find a PDF of the liturgy itself, and another of a Leader’s Guide to explain how the service works and give additional information. If you want to use the liturgy and need more information, contact me.