Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of Israel’s miraculous win over combined Arab forces in 1967, began last night with festive prayer services in synagogues around the country. This year we mark the 49th 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 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.
There is so much contention around Israel’s so-called “occupation” that it is not only good, but necessary – vital even – to remind us just what was the expected outcome of the Arab belligerence against Israel: another Holocaust. Israel was on the verge of extinction and it is hard to explain its win other than by Divine intervention assisting highly motivated and well-trained soldiers.
Watch this wonderful video for a very good overview (h/t Reality):
And here you can watch clips from the original event (via Shelley). (Hankie warning!):
You can read the English transcript and watch the full action (in Hebrew) of the capture of Jerusalem at Treppenwitz’s blog – really worthwhile in my opinion.
A very thought provoking article on Israel after the Six Day War is written by Amotz Asa-El, entitled The Seventh Day. After analyzing the events surrounding the war, he draws some interesting conclusions, but the key point for me was this:
The consequent euphoria in Israel and throughout the Jewish world created the illusion that Israel could reshape the Middle East and lead it to peace. This confidence animated two Israeli misadventures – the First Lebanon War in 1982, in which Israel thought it would democratize an Arab neighbor, and the Oslo Accords, through which Israel planned to inspire a New Middle East of borderless economies.
Most Israelis concluded from these two failures that the Middle East’s direction can be decided only by its Arab majority.
When they want war, even peace enthusiasts like Shimon Peres can’t deliver peace, just as when they want peace, even a super-hawk like Menachem Begin ends up ceding land.
Moshe Dann in his Jewish Press article “Jerusalem Day or Occupation Day? concurs with Amotz Asa-El that only when the Arabs want peace will there be peace. He also looks at the accusation of “occupation” that is hurled at Israel whenever the subject of Judea and Samaria comes up:
Since Zionism means reestablishing the Jewish national home in Eretz Yisrael and ingathering the Jewish people to its homeland, critics of settlements undermine the raison d’etre of the state itself.
What legitimately belongs to the state of Israel and the Jewish people? According to all legal experts, the law of occupation is invoked when one country seizes territory that legitimately belongs to another country. Since Jordan’s occupation of Judea and Samaria was not recognized by anyone (except Britain and Pakistan), its occupation was illegal. Moreover, Jordan renounced its claims to the territory in 1988 and re-confirmed that renunciation in its 1994 peace treaty with Israel, which recognized the Jordan River as the international boundary. The treaty makes no reference to Palestinian claims or a Palestinian state.
Conflating the issues of Israeli “occupation of Palestinian territory” and “Palestinian self-determination,” Israel’s critics have distorted questions of legal and historical rights and confused them with humanitarian rights. Thus, the more benign moral argument impels the malignant territorial one. Palestinian statehood is transformed from a dangerous option to an absolute moral imperative. When this is advanced by non-Jews, especially those who hate Jews and Israel, it is understandable. But when Jews, most of whom claim to be Zionists, adopt this argument, it goes beyond political differences. It strengthens the hands of our enemies. It is betrayal.
The [Edmund Levy] Commission rejected the canard of “occupation” and determined that settlements are not illegal or illegitimate since (1) Judea and Samaria were designated as part of the “Jewish national home” by the League of Nations; (2) Jordan illegally occupied this area; (3) the areas acquired in 1967 were taken in a war of self-defense and were never part of any state or proposed “Palestinian” state. Alas, the report, issued four years ago, lies abandoned in a political dungeon.
This governmental abdication of responsibility applies even more so to the Temple Mount. Despite all the victorious cries and declarations of “the Temple Mount is in our hands!”, it is NOT in our hands – not politically or diplomatically, and hardly physically at all. Although Jewish visitors are now allowed up (in very limited numbers) to visit the Temple Mount, the Jewish People’s holiest shrine, we are outrageously not allowed to pray there: not even to whisper a prayer. Today a Jewish man was arrested for the unspeakable crime of saying “Amen”: – and it wasn’t even in answer to a prayer:
Nearly half a century after the Temple Mount was declared by IDF General Mota Gur to be in our hands, the Israeli police continue to disprove that statement.
During a visit to the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day, a young Jewish man responded to well-wishes from Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, and answered “Amen” — at which point he was arrested by the Israeli police.
The more we give in to the Muslims and their racist and supremacist demands, the more they will demand. It is beyond high time that our political echelons instruct the police to permit Jewish prayer on the Mount, while our political and military brass must inform the Muslims that the Temple Mount is a Jewish shrine. Israelis should sue for discrimination since Muslims are allowed free prayer there, and are even given free reign to harass and hound Jewish visitors, while the Jews are barely allowed to visit in small groups and not to utter a word or gesture of prayer. If this would occur anywhere else in the world we would all be screaming “Antisemitism!” at the tops of our voices. The fact that the Israeli government has gone along with this outrage is a testament to their cowardice and lack of the courage of their convictions.
But let us not finish this festive post on a down note. Dvora Waysman in the Jewish Press has written an evocative and moving account of her move to Jerusalem with her family shortly after the Six Day War: When a divided Jerusalem became whole and brings the city to life with her beautiful words:
Our feet trod the stones that King David danced on. We prayed at the Western Wall where the Shechinah still lingers. We walked where kings and conquerors and priests and soldiers and holy men have walked for thousands of years, century after century. Every day we bathed in the unique golden light that countless artists have striven to capture.
Each neighborhood in Jerusalem is different – quiet alleyways that wander at random; bustling markets filled with the color and spicy smell of the Middle East; walled courtyards softened with a glimpse of greenery. Such an ancient yet such a modern metropolis where people work and play and shop and drive and argue and love.
Jerusalem is holy sites where prayers are whispered and blessings invoked. It is quiet hills silhouetted with pine trees. It is graveyards for the old and, unavoidably, military cemeteries for the young. It is parks where children laugh and dimpled babies are wheeled in prams.
And of course how can we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim without that glorious song Yerushalayim shel Zahav, written almost prophetically by Naomi Shemer just before the Six Day War, and which she had to update with an extra verse after Israel’s stunning victory. The beautiful, clear voice performing this song is Shuli Natan:
Chag Samea’ch Yerushalayim! And Chag Samea’ch too to Yehuda, Shomron and the Golan!