The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
There is a recurring theme associated with Jerusalem: that of Jewish unity.
Jerusalem is the City of Peace, though it has been conquered thirty-six times in its long history. King David wrote, “The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that is bound together” (Psalms 122:3). The Talmud elaborates on the expression “bound together” that Jerusalem “is a city that binds one Jew to another” (Jerusalem Talmud, Bava Kama 7:7).
The Psalmist continues, “For there the tribes ascended, the tribes of God, as a testimony for Israel.” King David sought unity – that the nation go as one to Jerusalem. Not as separate groups, but together as one.
Jewish unity is a necessary component to the completeness of the holy city. It is a theme that is heard from the Prophets, from Talmudic sources, and from later commentators.
The first “Yom Yerushalayim” did not occur until the time of King David. Until then, the upper city of Jerusalem had remained an impregnable Jebusite fortress since the time of the conquest of Joshua. But as Chronicles I (11:1) states, “And all of Israel gathered unto David saying, ‘behold we are your bone and your flesh.’”
Three sentences later we read, “David and all of Israel went to Jerusalem which is Jebus; the Jebusite. The inhabitants were all there. The inhabitants of Jebus told David, ‘You shall not enter here.’ But David captured the Zion fortress which is the city of David.”
Eventually, the Temple Mount itself would be purchased by King David and the first Temple built by his son and successor, Solomon.
All of Israel gathered and took part in its liberation. The Talmud in Yuma (12A) states, “Jerusalem was not divided among the tribes.” In essence, every Jew has a portion in Jerusalem.
It is thus easy to understand just how intolerable strife is to this most holy city – how hatred and infighting between Jews and rival Jewish factions resulted in the fall of Jerusalem.
Some 133 years prior to the Temple’s destruction, in 63 BCE, the rivalry between the last descendants of the Hasmoneans over control of Jerusalem lead to the Roman invasion and the occupation under Pompey.
Flash forward 133 years: Judea was struggling to maintain its independence as infighting pervaded Jerusalem. The Sadducees were rejecting the authority of the rabbis, turning the position of high priest into a political post as they vied for power and control. The zealot groups were fighting against Rome even as they opposed each other, and the Sicariim were assassinating their political rivals. The presence of such warring factions was an abomination to the holy city.
Just as Jerusalem was lost to strife, Old Jerusalem was liberated in 1967 by Jewish unity.
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neria, zt”l, a student of Rav Kook, pointed out in Moadei HaReiyah, a book he edited, that the Talmud (Zevachim 114 B) states, “the Passover sacrifice can only be brought when Israel enters (unified) through one gate.” Rav Neria observed that in May 1948, as the Haganah was engaged in a valiant struggle to hold on to Old Jerusalem, units of the Irgun and Haganah were planning to break into the area to come to the relief of the surviving troops.
They were two fighting forces, the Haganah representing the army of the Yishuv while the Irgun was the Revisionist Zionist underground. According to the plan, the Haganah was to enter Zion Gate, the Irgun Damascus Gate. Had they succeeded in taking Old Jerusalem, Rav Neria stated, there would have been constant quarreling over who liberated Jerusalem. Jerusalem would have become a city of dispute. It was only in 1967, when one Jewish army, the Israel Defense Forces, entered the Old City through one gate, Lion’s Gate, that the city along with the Temple Mount could be liberated.
For weeks during that glorious spring and summer of 1967, the awestruck Jewish nation not only experienced great relief over having survived a threat to its existence, it celebrated the long awaited liberation of Old Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. All Jewry – as one – shared in that moment.
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