RikudgalimMeir Sela

Although there was rioting and violence on the part of the Arab population in Israel in the period before the festive day, on the day following Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Liberation Day),we all entered a period of heightened hostilities, fraught with clear dangers.

Yet the experiences of this year’s Jerusalem Day celebrations reveal much regarding the strength of this people and the durability of Hashem’s promises.

I heard the Prime Minister make an announcement regarding the rikudgalim - the march of flags - in which hundreds of youth from all over the country, waving Israeli flags held high, enter the Old City through all the gates to gather at the Western Wall for prayers and festivities. The prime |minister decided to forbid the marchers from entering through the Damascus gate for obvious security reasons. This was followed by the decision of the organizers of the march to cancel the march altogether, as a response, in their words, to the government’s succumbing to pressure of terrorists. (They later expressed their understanding of the decision not to endanger all those youngsters and the cancellation took place in orderly, disciplined fashion.)

I immediately went down to the Kotel (the Western Wall) to stand, dance and sing with those that arrived nevertheless.

As I was filming what was happening around us, the sirens warning of a missile attack began to wail. The police and the soldiers immediately tried to rush people out of the central plaza into covered areas.The building I was moved into had a view of the Kotel plaza, so I kept on filming. Several “seemingly long “ minutes later, the all clear was announced and people gathered again in the middle of the plaza.

They immediately began to sing and dance. They began with the song that became well known during the expulsion of Jewish residents of the Katif Bloc in Gaza, “An Eternal People have no fear of the long journey" (based on words by Israel's first Chief Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, iconic leader of Religious Zionism, and paraphrased by Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman).

At that point, the police spokesman went on the PA system to announce that the celebration that had been planned for tonight was to be cancelled due to security concerns

Yet the people just kept on dancing and singing. As more and more people trickled into the plaza the circle became larger and larger.

Instead of hiding, they wanted to dance and rejoice. Instead of fear they mustered the courage to move forward .Instead of defeat they wanted to declare victory,

At some point the circle began to sing Hatikva, the Israeli National anthem, They were joined by the police and the soldiers. I thought to myself that they were winding down and were preparing to end the rejoicing and were preparing to leave. I was wrong.

They immediately began to sing and dance again.

At a certain point the police spokesman got on the PA system and announced that the program was going to continue as planned, and the band returned to the stage. The bandleader, then simply screamed out with all his strength YERUSHALAYIM. That began a period of singing and dancing that continued for over five hours.

Almost ten thousand people arrived that night.

This is the quality of the resolve that will protect and guide them and all of us through the stormy days ahead,

At a certain point in the evening, I broke away from the dancers. I took a Book of Psalms and stood by the Western Wall. I was awed by the images I had seen this day. I had seen Images that became metaphors. Metaphors that became powerful statements of faith, steadfastness and resolve.

-A small boy on his father’s shoulders dancing with the boy holding a very long flag pole ,the flag of Israel flying above him. The child’s eyes were transfixed ,staring up at the billowing flag.

-An older man holding two flags running into the Western Wall prayer plaza with a wide toothless grin. He was running in like a victor.

-Then I remembered some young Haredi boys, some of the Hesder Yeshiva boys dancing in one circle with some boys who had kippahs at all.

-They were next to a mother and three children, one of whom was still in a stroller, dancing in their own circle,

At one point I heard next to me a discussion between a Hassidic Jew and some young participants in the singing and the dancing. I tried to avoid getting involved because the discussion was transpiring in such a respectful and touching way

The Hassid said ”look at this country, look at the secular government, look at the lack of faith of so many people, how can you be singing Hodu L’Hashem ki tov” (O give thanks unto Hashem, for He is good, for His mercy endures for ever.- Psalm 136)?

“If you had many children,” he asked, “and you saw that many of them were not healthy, would you rejoice and sing HODU L’HASHEM KI TOV?”

I walked over and said “that was a great question and yet, if in the midst of that unhealthiness you saw that some of those children were healing and some were gaining strength and that some were even turning to Hashem to thank Him, wouldn’t you declare 'Hodu L’Hashem ki tov'? Look around you, I continued, look at these young people, look into their eyes.”

At that exact moment a young man walked by us in a sleeveless t-shirt and one of those white temporary kippas on his head. As he walked past, he saw the Book of Psalms that was still in my hands, he came over and asked if he could borrow the book as he was approaching the Kotel. I said sure, take it.

He took it, thanked me and kissed the Book of Psalms.

I turned to the Hassid and said “HODU L’HASHEM KI TOV “.

He smiled and said Amen

LeRefuat Kol Hacholim. Lerefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem, www,shorashimshop.com