You can fast, sit on the ground, etc., but you can’t really observe Tish’a B’Av without feeling it. A good translation of Eikhah, “Lamentations” or “Laments”, makes a huge difference. If you want to get what makes Tish’a B’Av real or relevant, try this translation. The current version can be downloaded in handout and booklet format. Copy it for your synagogue, havurah, minyan.
Tish’a B’Av תשעה באב is not primarily about mourning, but about becoming refugees, being thrown into a hostile world without shelter or protection. Part of this experience is mourning for what has been lost, but what we think of as mourning customs — not wearing fresh clothes, not washing, eating or drinking, not being able to sit down — more closely resembles the experience of a refugee than a mourner sitting shiva. Tish’a B’Av is not primarily about the end of sacrifices or the Temple – Chaza”l, the rabbis, figured out how to live without the Temple long ago. Rather, it’s about homelessness, fleeing from war into famine, about things that are all too present in our world. It’s also an opportunity to confront the ways in which we as individuals (and as a people) use our power to make others (people and species) into refugees. In an era when refugees are mistreated, when children are separated from families in order to punish parents for seeking asylum in the U.S., when countries across eastern Europe as well as Italy have come out to meet people fleeing war with armed opposition, like Edom rising up to repel the Israelites, we need to read Laments as the story of what is happening right now.