Israel Celebrates Jerusalem Day
On Saturday night and Sunday Israelis will celebrate Jerusalem Day, which marks the reunification of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War after 19 years of Jordanian occupation of the eastern part of the city.
The outnumbered Jewish defenders of the Old City and its Jewish residents, who had lived there continuously for hundreds of years, were forced to evacuate during Israel's War of Independence. The Jordanians destroyed 48 of the 49 synagogues they overran, used gravestones from the ancient Mount of Olives Cemetery for latrines and closed the Old City to Jews.
Synagogues were full Saturday night as many Israelis held special, festive prayer sessions in honor of the 45th anniversary of the capital’s reunification, declared a minor Jewish holiday by Israel's Chief Rabbinate. Some synagogues recite the Hallel prayer in the morning and recite some of the holiday prayers. Memorial services are also held for IDF soldiers who fell freeing the city.
The government will hold a special session Sunday at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, which was the site of some of the Six Day War’s fiercest battles and where 36 paratroopers died. During the session the government will vote on a series of motions aimed to develop Jerusalem in terms of tourism, economy and more.
One of the motions is the development of Ammunition Hill at a cost of 20 million shekels.
At 3 p.m. the annual Jerusalem Day Rikudglaim (march and dancing with Israeli flags), led by religious Zionist high school students and youth organizations will take place in and around the Old City.
Later in the evening, the flagship religious Zionist yeshiva, Merkaz Harav Kook in Jerusalem will host the main Jerusalem Day celebrations. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, rabbis from all over the country, ministers, and members of Knesset are expected to be in attendance.
In the early hours of the morning, continuing a 45 year old tradition, Merkaz HaRav students will dance their way from the yeshiva, located near the entrance to the city, to the Western Wall.
The Merkaz Harav event will be broadcast live on Arutz Sheva.
It was at Merkaz Harav yeshiva at the Independence Day celebration of 1967, that the venerable Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook zts"l, son of Chief Rabbi HaRav Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook who had also been head of the yeshiva, rose to speak and broke into the anguished cry -
"Where is our Hevron? Where is our Jericho? Where is our Shechem? Where is every bit of Eretz Yisrael? How can we accept that the verse that says 'and they divided my land' has come to pass?"
He told the awestruck students "I could not be truly happy [seeing the lack of these holy sites in the partition borders] on the first Independence Day [in 1948]".
The very next day, Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran and threated the Jewish state with extinction. The Six Day War began three weeks later, with the whole world expecting Israel's annihilation. Graves were dug in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by high schoolers in preparation for catastrophe.
However, the students had reason to recall his prophetic words with awe, when his prayers were answered and Jerusalem, Hevron, Shechem and Jericho returned to Jewish hands in a miraculous victory.
28 Iyar 1967: Mota Gur, the legendary commander of the forces that entered the Old City, announced on Israel radio: "The Temple Mount is in our hands," IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren blew the shofar at the Western Wall, and tens of thousands of Israelis rushed to Jerusalem and made their way on foot to the Wall after 19 years in which Jordan had denied them access to Judaism's holiest site.