What happened to Yom Yerushalayim - the special day which was the highlight of the six-day war - that over the years has become almost exclusive to the national religious sector?
There is hardly a day in the year which is not dedicated to a particular person or subject. April 14th is Dolphin Day, May 22nd (this Friday) is Sherlock Holmes Day, etc. But last year when I searched online for a mention of Yom Yerushalayim, which occurs on the 28th day of Iyar, I couldn't find even a single article dealing with this important day (except, of course, for Arutz Sheva).
In the past, Yom Yerushalayim was a day which gave hope for unification between the varied religious sectors. Haredi rabbis celebrated it and saw it as a special miracle. Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, founder of the Ponovezh Yeshiva, said: "The miracles and wonders, the blessings and consolations that occurred in the Holy Land, in the Holy City and the site of the Holy Temple - even those who saw it with their own eyes and felt it with the own bodies can not express their depths of emotion.”
So what happened over the years which led to this special day - the highlight of the Six Day War and which was established as a national holiday – becoming almost exclusive to the national religious sector?
The days following the Six Day War were days of euphoria. The brilliant and swift victory over the Arab armies, the liberation of much of Israel and the doubling of state territory, gave a sense of the coming of the Messiah to the religious public and of national pride to the secular public. But as with all euphoria, it didn’t last long. The heady feeling met the complex realities of life and people began having second thoughts about the results of the war.
The Haredim hoped that after the Six-Day War, the country would feel a great connection to Judaism and observance of mitzvot which would possibly even lead to the coming of the Messiah and the building of the Third Temple. But when they saw that this was not the case, and that in Jerusalem - the liberated Holy City – Houses of Idolatry, desecration of the Shabbat and other sins continued, they realized that their celebration was too early and too much.
The Israeli left has seen that the Israeli-Arab conflict continues full-throttle, prompting them to think of partial or full concession on territory which was acquired as an outcome of the war, in the hope that that will finally bring peace to the region and end the conflict.
Religious Zionism, on the other hand, has managed to walk the fine line of celebrating this day with great thanks to God for the liberation of Jerusalem, its return to Jewish rule and its rebuilding, along with the knowledge of the fact that in Jerusalem there are still many spiritual things that need repair.
Keeping Yom Yerushalayim as a national holiday is part and parcel of religious Zionism and we carry it proudly. We must continue to celebrate this day even if it is not widely practiced. It is our duty to step out of our own religious sector - into which we sometimes box ourselves - to connect with all other religious groups, and to spread the message of this special day to the entire nation of Israel
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol serves as Dean and Founder at the Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Community Development, and as rabbi of Kehillat Shaarei Yonah Menachem in Modi’in