May 12, 2010 is Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the reunification of the Golden City in 1967.
If I forget thee, O' Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy. (Psalm 137: 5-7)
Yes, Jews around the world are familiar with this saying, which is recited just before a Jewish bridegroom stomps on the glass at a wedding. While the psalm is used as a sad remembrance during a happy occasion (so we should never forget the destruction of the Holy Temple), on the 28th of Iyar every year, we joyously celebrate the unification of this special city in modern times.
Golden sun, setting over pink tinged stones. That is one of the glorious images one beholds on a clear evening in Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. Since 1967, when Israel took control of the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City with the Western Wall (or Kotel), the unification of this beautiful city has been celebrated every year on Yom Yerushalyim or Jerusalem Day.
The Battle for Jerusalem
The battle for Jerusalem began on June 5, 1967 when the Jordanians attacked along the previously established cease-fire line. By June 6, the Har’el Brigade under General Uzi Narkis troops reached to Givat HaMivtar, not far from the Old City. A paratroop brigade was moved in to clear a path to Mount Scopus and position themselves to get ready to enter the Old City. Then, on June 7 (28 of Iyar) came the order to liberate the Old City. The paratrooper brigade who had conquered the Mount of Olives broke through the Lions Gate and raised the Israeli flag over the Kotel. The now famous words, uttered by General Mordechai “Mota” Gur, Har Ha Bayit b’Yadenu (the Temple Mount is in our hands) were transmitted to army commanders and resonated with Jews all around the world.
On May 12, 1968 the Israeli government made the 28th of Iyar into a symbolic holiday. In 1998 Jerusalem Day became an Israeli national holiday, but one where schools and businesses are still open.
How Jerusalem Day is Celebrated
In Israel, Jerusalem Day is marked by state ceremonies in the city, memorial services, lectures on Jerusalem-related topics and special programs on television and radio stations. Israeli children often take field trips to the capital, visiting the old city and some of the locations where historic Six Day War battles took place, like Ammunition Hill (one of the key locations that allowed for a clear path to the ultimate dream goal, the liberation of the Old City)
Religiously in and out of Israel, Jews say the celebratory Hallel prayer in synagogues and some wear festive clothing and hold holiday-type meals or parties.
In the Diaspora, many synagogues, Jewish community organizations and religious schools hold lectures on the Six Day War and Jerusalem-related topics as well as sometimes holding concerts with music and dance performances.
Yerushalayim shel zahav - Jerusalem the Golden!
Have you been to Jerusalem? What's your favorite Jerusalem story? Let us know in the comments.