Jerusalem Day and, to a certain degree, its younger sister, the day of the liberation of Hebron, are regularly and naturally celebrated in our communities. The meticulous recite the Hallel liturgy and go up to Jerusalem for dancing and celebration. The most meticulous also mark the day of the liberation of Hebron in some way ? prayer, an evening retrospective or a festive meal. Both of these groups are asking themselves nowadays, ?This joy ? what is it for?? or at least, ?Has the time for rejoicing really already arrived?? We can see for ourselves the state of liberated Jerusalem and Hebron. We see the shame of the Temple Mount, abandoned and renounced, violated by the bulldozers of the Arabs, while a Jew cannot even go up to visit the Mount, never mind pray there.

We all see wide swaths of Jerusalem conquered by hostile Arab foes, places where a Jew feels as though he is in Beirut or Riyadh. We all see the city of our forefathers, Hebron, occupied ? for the most part ? by an enemy, closed off to Jews. A Jew is taking his life in his hands walking through most parts of the city. Our hallowed and historical sites are far from us, as if in the Diaspora. Perhaps worse that that, for over the past thousands of years, under the rule of various occupiers, we were at least able to visit Alonei Mamre, the cave of Othniel ben Kenaz, Eshel Avraham, etc. Now, those places are seemingly beyond a hostile and threatening border. As if to further increase the frustration and embarrassment, we have been brought to this state of affairs by the government of the State of Israel - that same government whose sovereignty over Jerusalem and Hebron we are celebrating as a day of ?liberation.? It is not at all a simple situation.

However, it is possible to understand these days not as marking an event that occurred and is finished ? in the way that we all see them, very partially ? but as milestones in an ongoing process of liberation. That process is at its height. It is long and complicated, fraught with difficulties and frustrations, but, at the same time, it is inspiring and challenging, stimulating and compelling. These days of liberation are, first and foremost, days of self-liberation; spiritual and ideological liberation, liberation from rigidity and apathy, liberation from sadness, tiredness and the addictive search for convenience. We are celebrating the opportunity that has been given to us to continue the historical mission of the ages - to return, completely, to all the areas of our land and its cities. That is the opportunity, that is the challenge, that is the task at hand ? but it is still not the final objective.

We have been given the right and obligation to take up a position at the start of the final stretch in the race of history. At this stage, we must not tire, for it is impossible to withdraw. We can and we must continue. Along this path there are pitfalls and obstacles, and many trials, but we already know that our task is not an easy one, nor is it ours to complete. Rather, our mission is to continue to strive to the best of our ability.

Therefore, the celebration of the liberation of Jerusalem and Hebron is not to be understood as marking the completion or fulfillment of the task of liberation. That mission can be completed only through the Ultimate Redemption. Yet, we have gone up a great ascent, to the challenging and exalted level of an independent people struggling for the redemption of its land, cities and holy places; an independent people struggling with its own self-identification, facing itself and its environs, bravely and diligently striving along its path. Just as on Independence Day we did not inherit a tranquil estate, but were given the opportunity to fight for and shape our national life, so, too, during these momentous days, a continuation of Independence Day, during which the gates were opened to a historical challenge unseen since the days of Bar Kochba. Thank God that this is our task. Previous generations faced much more difficult challenges: to continue the life of a people without a national framework, to suffer a foreign yoke, persecutions and pogroms, without the possibility of response and confrontation. We have been granted an uplifting and inspiring challenge. Thank God, the new generation growing up among us is filled with faith and power; a partner going forward, and pulling us forward, never allowing us to tire or forget.

For that, we will express gratitude to God with praise and with the voice of thanks, the voice of the masses celebrating. We will dance in the streets of Jerusalem and come out in force to visit Me?arat HaMachpela. We will know that we are continuing to carry the torch of an eternal mission, and we will carry it proudly and with joy into the future, until we merit and can rejoice in the Complete Rebuilding.


Noam Arnon is a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron.