Yom Yerushalayim began tonight, marking the 46th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, as well as the liberation of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights (and the Gaza Strip but that’s another story) in the 1967 Six Day War. The day is not a national holiday in Israel but it is marked with special ceremonies, prayers and celebrations in schools, municipalities, youth clubs, and of course throughout Jerusalem.
Here is some interesting reading about Jerusalem for your enjoyment and enlightenment.
First, a look at the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish nation, (Yisrael Hayom): Jerusalem is in our DNA:
Our connection to it is rooted in our religious faith, in our history and in two thousand years of recollection and longing. The Jewish presence in Jerusalem never ended. As former Prime Minister Menachem Begin said, “More than Israel watches over Jerusalem, Jerusalem watches over Israel.”
Oh, how right he was: Jerusalem is and has been the DNA that runs through the veins of Jewish people all over the world. Jerusalem was a magnet to us, a compass, a glue, the weave forming the Jewish people’s most characteristic memory, in which our justice and inherent right were embodied and are embodied until today. Without Jerusalem, our right to the land of Israel is eroded.
On this day, we need to retell again and again the Jewish story of Jerusalem, a story that is unparalleled. Without it our nation would never have been resurrected here, in Israel. Every day, Jews in the Diaspora reminded themselves of the holiness of the city: during the morning, afternoon and evening prayer services, at funerals, circumcisions and bar mitzvahs, in the blessing over food, at weddings, and on holidays. The Jewish people swore and swear to this day, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”
Islam, which now claims Jerusalem and its holy places, entered the scene some 2,000 years after Israel became a nation. The Palestinians — who are claiming east Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Temple Mount, as their capital — only began to define themselves as a nation within the last century. After the occupation of the lands of Canaan ended around the 13th century B.C.E., the Jews ruled over this land of Israel for some 1,000 years. Jews have lived in Israel for the past 3,300 years. Throughout this time, Jerusalem has always been the Hebrew capital.
Some more background from Eli Hertz at Myths and Facts:
Israel reunited Jerusalem as one city in 1967, after Jordan joined the Egyptian and Syrian war offensive and shelled the Jewish parts of the city. One of Israel’s first acts was to grant unprecedented freedom to all religions in the city. Israeli leaders vowed Jerusalem would never again be divided.
Despite the disgraceful treatment of the Jewish Quarter and the Mount of Olives under Jordanian control and despite their violation of their pledges to make all holy sites accessible to Jews and Christians, one of the first acts Israel undertook after reuniting the city was to guarantee and safeguard the rights of all Citizens of Jerusalem. This included not only free access to holy sites for all faiths but also represented an unprecedented act of religious tolerance. Israel granted Muslim and Christian religious authorities responsibility for managing their respective holy sites. Additionally Israel granted Muslim administration of Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.
This history is echoed in Ruthie Blum's excellent piece: Jerusalem - a cautionary tale:
Tonight is the eve of Jerusalem Day, which marks the reunification of the Jewish capital in 1967, during the Six-Day War.
Contrary to widespread belief, based on a concerted propaganda campaign, this was not the event that created what has come to be called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the contrary, it was precisely the pan-Arab attempt to eliminate the "Zionist entity" that sparked the three-front war in the first place. And it was Israel that liberated Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation.
Anyone who has forgotten the atmosphere prior to and following the Six-Day War need do little more than watch today's news. While the entire Middle East is burning with Islamist fever, Sunni-Shiite enmity, tribal factionalism and a swift shift backward in time, Israel continues to lead the Western world in modernization.
A brief review of the days leading up to the war whose outcome we are celebrating this week is in order.
On May 15, the Egyptian army issued a battle order and moved a division through the streets of Cairo. Israel reacted by dispatching troops to the Sinai desert and conveying a message to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser that this was a defensive, not offensive, response. "Israel wants to make it clear to the government of Egypt that it has no aggressive intentions whatsoever against any Arab state at all," said Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.
On May 23, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran, severing Israel's only supply route with Asia and stopping the flow of oil from Iran.
On May 30, Jordan signed a defense treaty with Egypt -- and by extension, with Syria -- placing Jordanian forces under Egyptian command.
On June 1, Iraqi President Abdel Rahman Aref gave a radio address in which he encouraged the demolition of Israel: "This is the day of the battle to avenge our martyred brethren who fell in 1948 ... We shall, God willing, meet in Tel Aviv and Haifa."
By June 5, the day that Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt's air force, there were Egyptian divisions deployed along Israel's southern border, tens of thousands of Jordanian soldiers and Iraqi forces stationed along Israel's eastern border, and tens of thousands of Syrian troops along Israel's northern border. Hundreds of Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi planes were prepped and ready.
Following the attack, Israel sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan, promising not to attack the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) if he would stay out of the conflict. But the king ignored the plea. He was emboldened by false information he had received from Egypt. Rather than admitting that Israel had basically wiped out the Egyptian air force, Nasser boasted that it was he who was emerging victorious.
Buoyed by this lie -- the purpose of which was to save Arab face -- Jordan went on a rampage. It shelled Tel Aviv suburbs and the Ramat David military airfield; attacked Netanya and Kfar Saba from the air; sent mortars flying all over west Jerusalem, hitting targets such as Hadassah Hospital, the Domition Abbey on Mount Zion, the Knesset and the Prime Minister's Office.
It was only then that Israel had no choice but to retaliate, precisely what it had wanted to avoid. In this respect, Israel has King Hussein to thank for the reunification of its capital.
On June 7, Dayan issued the following statement: "This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour -- and with added emphasis at this hour -- our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples' holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity."
Though the war wasn't even over yet, Israel's first concern was "extending our hand in peace." And despite incessant declarations of hostility from the Arabs, both in the liberated territories and elsewhere, Israel has kept every word of Dayan's promise about how Jerusalem would be handled.
And yet, as described in Myths and Facts, Arab terrorism has been focussed on Jerusalem:
Why do Palestinian Arabs focus terror attacks on the City of Peace? Because Palestinians, despite their rhetoric, fully understand Jerusalem’s symbolic and spiritual significance to the Jews. Suicide attacks – on public buses and cafes, malls, and other crowded sites in the heart of the city – since the 1993 Oslo Accords, are designed to make life hell for Jewish Jerusalemites. Atrocities like the February and March 1996 bombings of two #18 buses that killed 26 people and the August 2001 bombing of a Sbarro pizzeria that killed 15 (including five members of one family), are part of an ongoing 120-year-old battle that Arabs have waged in opposition to Zionism. In April 1920, a three-day rampage by religiously incited anti-Zionist Arab mobs left six dead and 200 injured in the Jewish Quarter. The attackers gutted synagogues and ransacked homes. Arabs planted time bombs in public places as far back as February 1947, when they blasted Ben-Yehuda Street, Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare, leaving 50 dead.
This was all done before the establishment of the State of Israel. In the 1950s, Jordanians periodically shot at Jewish neighborhoods from the walls of the Old City. And after the city was united in 1967, Arabs renewed their battle for the city by planting bombs in cinemas and supermarkets. The first terrorist attack in that renewed battle came with the 1968 bombing of Jerusalem’s “Machane Yehuda,” the open market that left 12 dead.
The plain facts about Palestinian Arab behavior clearly demonstrate that under international law they have forfeited any claim to the City of Peace. Their aggression cannot and should not be rewarded.
However, despite it all, Jerusalem reunited under Israel's rule, is growing and thriving according to a new survey:
Jerusalemites are, on the whole, happier than the residents of other Israeli cities, as thousands of jobs are being created in the capital increasingly defined by its religious majority, according to a survey published Tuesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The data, made public before the 46th Jerusalem Day, found the city enjoying a positive economic momentum. The year 2012 saw some 17,000 new jobs created in the capital, in addition to approximately 30,000 jobs created between 2009 and 2007, meaning that in the course of the last four years Jerusalemites were offered some 50,000 new working positions.
Another clause simply shows Jerusalemites to be pleased with the city of their dwelling – more so than their compatriots living in other Israeli urban centers. An impressive 88% of Jerusalemites said they were happy with their city, 2% higher than Tel Avivians, 4% higher than in Haifa and 6% higher than in Ashdod.
Fifty-nine percent of Jerusalem's residents said they were happy with their economic condition, while the average in other cities stands at 55%. Additionally, an increasing amount of residents said they were happy with the cleanness in the city, and the number of parks and green areas Jerusalem has to offer.
Jerusalem is the largest urban center in Israel, both in terms of geography and in terms of number of residents. It is home to some 800,000 people, some 500,000 of whom are Jews.
The majority of the Jews in the city define themselves as religious to varying degrees. Some 32% defined themselves as haredi (compared to an average 8% in other big Israeli cities), 21% as religious, 26% as traditional and 19% as secular.
In addition to all the other positives, Jerusalem's net migration rate shows a positive value, meaning more people enter the city than leave it; the new trend is a welcome departure from the norm for a city that has been plagued by negative migration.
According to the statistics bureau, it is most likely accounted for by the growing popularity of the capital among haredi and religious youths.
To conclude this post, before I post a couple of videos, read Israellycool's great post about Yom Yerushalayim. It's got stories and history and videos, including the famous, very emotional recording of General Motta Gur as he led the paratroops into the Old City and on to the Kotel.
Via BBC Watch, here's a short video from the official State of Israel YouTube channel called Faces of Jerusalem:
Here's an example of a local Yom Yerushalayim celebration which actually took place in Tel Aviv with local residents and Bnei Akiva youth (h/t Reality):
And a picture (again via Reality) of our local youth groups in a "March of the Flags":
Chag Same'ach Jerusalem! And Chag Same'ach to all of Israel.