Combat soldiers have been exempted from fasting on Tisha B'Av, which marks the destruction of the two Jerusalem Temples, Israel's Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger announced, in cooperation with the IDF's chief rabbi, Brigadier General Yisrael Weiss. The three publicized a religious decree on the issue.
The decree was presented by Rabbi Metzger, who is the President of the Chief Rabbinical Council, during a meeting of the Council in Sderot at the start of the week, held to identify with the citizens of the rocket-stricken city.
The decree ruled: "Due to the combat situation our fighters are under in the front, we rule that all soldiers involved in combat are exempt from suffering on the day of Tisha B'Av, since the suffering harms combat ability and can endanger their lives. They must therefore eat and drink as much as they need so that they be maximally fit to carry out the holy missions placed upon them, to fight and win."
The rabbis also called on "all of our brothers in the House of Israel in all places of their residence, in Israel and the world, and in general our dear brothers who during their days do not ensure to fast properly, to make a special effort to strengthen the Israeli people and its unity, and to hold the fast of Tisha B'Av. Members of the nation of Israel are in solidarity with one another and the power of solidarity obligates us to lend a shoulder, to share in the sorrow of those suffering following the war."
Prayers for soldiers
They also called on solidarity to be shown now "during this difficult period when we stress our national mourning… we will bring our sorrow and pain on divisiveness and baseless hatred which caused the destruction of the Temple, and we'll pray to see quickly the comforting of Zion, the victory of our soldiers, and full liberation quickly."
Ahead of Tisha B'Av, the Judaism Information Center began operation Magen Ha'elef, based on a tradition dating back to the days of King David, which involves prayers for the soldiers of Israel.
The operation will be carried out by Rehovot's Chief Rabbi Simha Hacohen Kook and Boston Hassidic Rabbi Yitzhak Horovitz.
During the operation it will be possible to call the organization's headquarter, pass on a name of a fighting IDF soldier alongside the name of his mother, and prayers will be said for the soldier. The headquarters, based in Jerusalem, said that thousands of families of soldiers and Jews from around the world have already contacted them.