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The Heart and Soul of the Jewish People

It is difficult for younger people to fathom that there was an era when Jerusalem was not under our purview.

Weiss-051013

Yom Yerushalayim, which we marked this week, is a monumental day in Jewish history. It is a celebration of the first time in 2,000 years that Jews regained sovereignty over the Kotel, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest site. And it is a time to thank God for giving us the extraordinary gift that is Jerusalem.

We were overwhelmed and outnumbered by our enemies in 1967, yet the Israel Defense Forces achieved a miraculous victory, reclaiming and reuniting Jerusalem in a defensive war. We salute and remember the brave Israeli soldiers who battled our antagonists and prevailed in just six days.

Many of us, young and old, sometimes take it for granted that we have control over Jerusalem and unfettered access to our holy sites. However, it is important to always recall that there was a time, not so long ago, when Jerusalem was off limits to Jews.

Understandably, it is difficult for younger people, who have never experience a divided Jerusalem, to fathom that there was an era when Jerusalem was not under our purview. For those who lived through it, it was extremely painful and especially frustrating that we were unable to visit Israel’s capital. Jews throughout the world prayed that Jerusalem would once again be ours and we yearned for the time we could once again bask in its holy glow. Now, years after Israeli forces achieved this remarkable feat, even the older generation can easily forget about the centuries when Jews were denied access to our most holy sites.

Yom Yerushalayim comes around once a year, but we must continually thank God for restoring our connection to Jerusalem and for keeping His promise.

Israel’s prime ministers have always maintained that Jerusalem is a “red line” that cannot and will not be crossed. Menachem Begin said it best at Camp David in 1978 when he quoted to President Jimmy Carter from the Book of Psalms: “If I forget thee, O’ Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I hold thee not above my highest joy.” He followed that by emphatically stating, “Jerusalem is the heart of Israel, the heart of the Jewish people.”

Moving forward, the greater Jewish community needs to put a renewed emphasis on shifting the focus to Jerusalem and highlighting its significance.

● We must urge our rabbinic leaders to double their efforts in educating our young people and reminding the older generation about the centrality of Jerusalem. A real in-depth understanding of what Jerusalem means to our people is paramount in order to preserve the rich history of this great city, mentioned more than 600 times in Tanach.

● It would behoove Jewish schools, summer camps, and educators around the world to continue developing and enhancing curricula aimed at transmitting to the younger generation a keen awareness and deep appreciation of the importance of Jerusalem in a historical, cultural, and religious context. Families must commit to visit the city to maintain a durable and unyielding connection with it.

● It is incumbent upon all of us to encourage and support settlement in all areas of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is our capital, and no one in the international community is in a position to dictate where Jews are permitted, or not permitted, to reside within our own capital.

● We all must make the issue of Jerusalem a pivotal part of our lives. We can never take for granted the fact that the capital of the Jewish state belongs to us and is under our rule.

The holy city of Jerusalem is a vital connection to our past and an integral link to our future. With its unique religious and cultural significance, Jerusalem is the lifeblood of the Jewish people and the heart and soul of our nation.

Our children and grandchildren are the leaders of tomorrow. Someday they will be the stalwarts of the Jewish people. We must build a solid foundation for the future by instilling in them a love of Jerusalem and ensuring that they develop a deep appreciation God’s gift to us.

So, after observing Yom Yerushalayim and celebrating the 46th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, let us revitalize our efforts to underscore all that this holy city means to the Jewish people. Let us turn our attention to the importance of communicating to the younger generation just how fortunate they are to have a city they are able to call home.

About the Author: Farley Weiss is president of the National Council of Young Israel. The following members of NCYI’s board of directors and professional staff contributed to the writing of this piece: Robert Levi, chairman of the board; Yosef Poplack, 1st vice president; and Rabbi Bini Maryles, associate executive director and senior director of branch services.


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Weiss-051013

Yom Yerushalayim, which we marked this week, is a monumental day in Jewish history. It is a celebration of the first time in 2,000 years that Jews regained sovereignty over the Kotel, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest site. And it is a time to thank God for giving us the extraordinary gift that is Jerusalem.

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