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Dear Friends,

Being in Tel Aviv for Tisha B’av this year has been a fascinating experience… and one of stark contrasts.

Starting at about 6pm the streets started quieting down as if it were Erev Shabbat. (Tel Aviv doesn’t shut down completely on Shabbat the way Jerusalem does but it becomes far quieter.)

On this day when, countless times, tragedy struck our community, restaurants are supposed to close. Many do but some of the non-kosher restaurants pay a small fine and remain open for business. We walked past Shila: Sharon Cohen’s Kitchen and Bar and it was hopping. The restaurant isn’t kosher (we checked the menu and it is VERY not kosher!), but in solidarity with the community and out of respect for the observant, had always closed for Tisha B’Av. This year, however, they chose to remain open. As reported in the Times of Israel,

“Sharon Cohen, the owner of Shila, a Tel Aviv fish and seafood restaurant with a devoted clientele, intends to keep it open for the first time on the evening of Tisha B’Av since it opened 18 years ago, to protest what he views as religious coercion being advanced as part of the judicial overhaul.

‘I’m an atheist, but we closed down on Tisha B’Av as a sign of respect to religious people,’ Cohen, 47, told The Times of Israel Wednesday. ‘But they don’t reciprocate this respect, the pact is broken, so I no longer see any reason to close shop and give up a business day.’

The judicial overhaul is dismantling institutions that are meant to safeguard against religious coercion, Cohen said.

‘We want a new social contract. We will not be trampled on by these fundamentalists,’ he added. Some of the staff at Shila disagree with the decision and would like to see the place close for Tisha B’Av, Cohen noted.

‘Those who have issues with it have said so and we discussed it. But the restaurant will stay open,’ he said.” (Times of Israel July 26, 2023)

As I noted, and you can see in the pictures, the place was hopping. And when we passed by again two and a half hours later it was still packed.


As we walked to the beach to attend a Tisha B’av gathering, we passed people of all stripes. There were secular Israelis riding scooters and playing volleyball. And there were ultra-Orthodox Jews walking slowly along the promenade.

At our destination we found a group of perhaps one hundred or so people sitting together in a circle. At the center was an American born Orthodox rabbi chanting Eicha (Lamentations.) Between chapters he would pause and offer some teachings and insights from the tradition in both Hebrew and English. The theme running through his commentaries? The ancient sin of sinat chinam—groundless hatred within our community—is alive and well. It benefitted no one in antiquity and it benefits no one in our own day. We need, he said in a variety of ways, to stop demonizing one another.

His message was powerful but what really struck me was the crowd gathered to listen to him. There were religious Jews wearing head coverings. There were secular Jews with bare heads, baseball caps and shorts. Those gathered were men and women, straight and gay, white and black… the diversity of the Jewish people was present in one small gathering on a beach in Tel Aviv on the saddest day of the year.



I know it is odd to say about a Tisha B’av gathering but… it was beautiful.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen