The saddest day in the Jewish calendar: the day when their first as well as their second Temple were destroyed by fire.
It is the 9th day of the month of Av, which fell this year (2011) on the 9th of August.
Tisha b'Av (pronounced be Av, or bay Av) is a day of fasting to remember the destruction of the First and Second Temple in Jerusalem.
The first Temple (built by Solomon) was destroyed by the Babylonian army which conquered the Kingdom of Judah, set fire to the Temple, and carried away its holy vessels and furniture, as well as the King, courtiers, and the best people into Babylon.
The Temple was rebuilt after the Babylonians were in turn conquered by the Medes and Persians. The Persian King Cyrus sent many Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple, and permitted Jews to return to Judah if they so desired - and many did. Under Cyrus, the Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel, with encouragement from Ezra the legal scholar, Joshua the High Priest, and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.
Years later, the Persian Empire was conquered by Alexander the great Greek King. Alexander died heirless, and his kingdom was divided among his four main generals. The Land of Judah was divided between the Northern and the Southern kingdoms (Assyria and Egypt), and many times the rulership of Judah changed hands, alternating between the North and the South.
Eventually, the Greeks were conquered by Roman. Caesar became the Emperor of a vast emmpire. In Judah, her permitted local kings, one of whom, Herod, began to extend the Temple premises in 20 BC. He undertook renovations that took the Temple to new heights of glory. When I say "heigts" I mean that literally. King Herod's Temple was 15 storeys high! The outer court and the walls were not completed until 64 CE, 68 years after Herod's death! This Temple was known as the Second Temple, and it was the center of Jewish worship from the time of Cyrus to the time of the Caesars and their puppet local king, Agrippa.
It was during this period that Yeshua was born, grew up, and started a preaching and miracle miniatry. Many Jews accepted Yeshua as the Messiah. But the Priests, the Pharisees (a sect strict law-observing Jews), and the sect of the Sadducees (who were the liberals of those days), rejected Yeshua. They engineered the arrest of Yeshua, and His trial (ander false charges), and finally His crucifixion and death. Not long before His arrest and crucifixion, Yeshua was teaching in the Temple, and one of His disciples said, in effect, "Isn't this magnificent?" Yeshua answered, "Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another. Everything will be thrown down." (Matthew 24:2).
These words of Yeshua were precisey fulfilled in 70 CE, when tje Roman army, led by General Titus (who was later to become a Caesar himself), besieged Jerusalem, then broke its walls and swept through it, and reduced Herod's Temple to a pile of blackened rubble. The only thing that remained was a retaining wall, that once supported the western portion of the Temple Mount. That retaining wall is now called the Western Wall. The date the Temple was set ablaze was again the 9th of Av, the same date on which the first Temple was destroyed. The fires burned on through all of the 10th Av as well.
This is why the Jews consider the 9th of Av the saddest day in their calendar.
Today the Jews cry for their lost Temple, even after 2000 years, a fact that surprised the great military leader Napoleon. Read the prediction he made when he heard them crying.
Since then, Jerusalem was ravished by 26 nations, and leveled to the ground five times.
We rejoice with Zechariah, the prophet of the Second Temple times, that the fast of the fifth month (the month of Av), along with three other fasts observed by the Jews, will be to rhe house of Judah days of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts.
Zechariah 8:19 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.