Yom Yerushalayim

This post is dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Aryeh Zalman z"l. May it be an aliyah                                                               for his neshama.

By Jackie Ross

Walking through Jerusalem today, it's hard to imagine the city any other way - the light rail that runs through both the eastern and western neighborhoods, the easy stroll to the Kotel, the luxury shopping along Mamilla. While today the area directly across from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Yemin Moshe, is the most expensive place to live in Jerusalem today, it wasn't always the case. Prior to 1967, life in Jerusalem wasn't so easy, or so complete. Jerusalem was slated by the UN to be an international city when the British empire left the region in 1948, fighting over the Holy City inevitably ensued. Jordan seized control of the Old City, along with the easter half of Jerusalem, until it's ultimate reunification.

Yom Yerushalayim doesn't just celebrate the reunification of the Holy City on the 28th of Iyar, in the late 1960s, it's a celebration of the beginning of the return to Jewish glory in Israel. As we've talked about before, Iyar is a month of modern miracles for the Jews in Israel and around the world. With the founding of the state on the 5th of Iyar the month is capped off with the reunification of the most important place in Judaism - a completion that has been 2,000 years in the making. Since the Roman expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (The Temple) in 70 A.D. the Jewish presence in the Old City has been minimal and never long lasting (most residents of Jerusalem lived within the safe walls of the Old City). For the past 2,000 years all residents of Jerusalem, regardless of their religion, have been subject to the ebb and flow of various rulers - the Byzantine Empire, The Ottoman Empire, The Crusaders, Suleman the Great, etc. Life in Jerusalem has always been fraught with danger, but whenever they were allowed, there was always a small contingency living here, keeping the Jewish people's presence alive. That is, until 1948. It was such a phenomenal loss - for the first time Jews had sovereignty over Israel, but sadly not the most sacred area.

While a couple of other religions also lay claim to Jerusalem as a holy place for them, Jerusalem isn't appreciated by anyone quite like the Jews. Notably, no matter who occupied Jerusalem, the city was never the capital of any nation other than for the Jewish people. When a Jew prays, no matter where they are in the world, they turn to face Jerusalem. And if you are fortunate enough to be in Jerusalem, you turn to face the Kotel - the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Throughout Tehillim (Psalms) there are references to Jerusalem as the House of G-d and the place worthy of the utmost sanctity. Constantly throughout the Amidah, the prayer said three times a day by religious Jews, we ask G-d to restore Jerusalem to its former glory and allow the Jews to return to their service in the Beit Hamikdash.  In the writings of the later Prophets there are constant promises that Jerusalem will be restored, and both the young an old will be able to walk down her streets safely. B'kitzur (in short): the reunification of Jerusalem is a big deal. Globally, it isn't even celebrated to the minimal extent Yom HaAtzmaut is, which is a shame. It's not a national holiday in Israel, although there are official celebrations and ceremonies. The day is acknowledged, although perhaps not to the degree it should be.

Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Reunification Day, is a special day, regardless of how it is or isn't perceived by the rest of the world. It is a reminder that G-d keeps His promises to the Jewish people and only great things are in store for them!

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