Today is Yom Yerushalayim – the 46th we have celebrated since the reunification of Jerusalem. From 1948 – 1967, Jews were barred from the Old City, from the Kotel and the Temple Mount – that was how the Jordanians and the local Arab population dealt with the issue of religious freedom – there was none. The U.N. did not condemn them; the world was silent while we could not visit our holy places.
In 1967, Israel was facing war with Syria and Egypt – the rhetoric and belligerent movement of their troops made their intention clear. Even as we launched a preemptive attack (though Egypt’s closing of the Straights of Tiran was clearly an act of war and intent), we sent a message to Jordan – stay out of this war. We don’t want to fight you….we will not attack.
Jordan sent back a clear message – we will fight with our brothers, and they attacked. Like the Egyptians and the Syrians, the Jordanians fell in days and what was known as the West Bank of the Jordan river, was conquered. Jews were allowed to their holy sites but we did not do what the Arabs had done. Though we found our holy places desecrated, we protected theirs. Centuries old Jewish grave stones were turned into bathrooms, smashed and crumbled, we rebuilt them.
We reunited Jerusalem – while allowing the Arabs access – virtually unrestricted – to all their holy places (there are times it is restricted to men over 40, for example – but this is usually when there is a clear danger of violence (or just after there was violence from there). We have never taken control and made it ours – as they did.
It was our Holy Temple – our Temple Mount – on which they built, centuries later, their mosques. If anyone is restricted today – it is Jews, who are warned they will not be allowed to visit the Temple Mount if they dare attempt to pray…can you imagine? Pray. We are not allowed to move our lips in a whispered prayer.
But for today, I will think of the greater celebration. The Temple Mount is not free, but the rest of Jerusalem is – free, free these last 46 years – for all.