As we mark with joy and thanksgiving the 49th birthday of united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty this Sunday, let us put aside our concerns for Jerusalem’s future for a moment and simply celebrate.
It was during these very days in 1967 that the IDF, with great heroism and Divine providence, liberated the Jewish people’s holy capital – and brought about its official unification under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in nearly 19 centuries.
Like Israel’s Independence Day, Jerusalem Day provides a choice opportunity to reflect on arguably one of history’s most amazing pairs of complementary phenomena: On the one hand, the consolidation of the Jewish people, dispersed around the globe for nearly 2,000 years while they underwent persecution, longing, and anticipation that their prophets’ predictions of their return would be fulfilled – and on the other hand, the unwavering “loyalty” shown this exiled nation by its homeland, which refused to accept the mastery of any other people throughout its centuries of desolation.
And finally, in our lifetimes, these two extraordinary marvels converged – and the Jewish people were again an independent nation in their own homeland. “How fortunate is the eye that these they beheld!”
Visitors to Yerushalayim on Jerusalem Reunification Day – the 28th of Iyar, the third day of the Six-Day War (the 5th of June this year) – will be treated to a display of the deep-seated joy felt by the residents, and especially by the 100,000 young people from all around the country who descend on the capital to celebrate. The now-traditional Rikudgalim will be the centerpiece of the event: two separate musical parades for males and females waving Israeli flags and dancing and singing through the streets.
The city will abound on this day with other holiday events, including a midnight march from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav Kook to the Western Wall; the “Naaleh L’Yerushalayim” event for youth from around the country; singing and dancing at Yeshivat Beit Orot on Mt. Scopus; memorial events for fallen soldiers and Ethiopian Jewry; and events in Katamon, Kiryat Menachem, Ramot, downtown, and elsewhere.
The day will also be one of recognition and appreciation: The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism will be awarded to individuals “who put Zionism into action” in the City of David, and the “Yakir Yerushalayim” Award Ceremony, in which twelve Jerusalem residents will be bestowed with the decoration for having “influenced and contributed to the lives of all residents of the city.”
The central official event will be held at Ammunition Hill, between Ramat Eshkol and Police Headquarters, with the participation of President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mayor Barkat, and others. It was there that a miraculous and decisive battle was heroically fought and won 49 years ago; though IDF troops had neither aerial nor artillery support, and despite the killing and wounding of many of the officers, they succeeded in capturing the well-protected and very strategic Jordanian fortress outpost.
To mark the anniversary, Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin and Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon have agreed on a five-year development for the city – an 850-million shekel budget that represents nearly a 250 percent increase over the just-ended five-year plan. The money will be earmarked for economic and hi-tech development; upgrading the city as a worldwide tourist capital; academia and culture; aid for small and medium businesses; and more.
On the other hand: Our concern for Jerusalem’s future has not waned, and reasons for our perpetual vigilance continue to present themselves. Here is just a short sampling of worrisome headlines from the past week:
City councilman Aryeh King said that the ongoing and massive illegal construction by Arabs in Jerusalem is “undoubtedly the most significant platform for the de-facto creation of a divided Jerusalem.” Although illegal construction of any type must be negated, he said, “it cannot be that when a Jew builds an extra room, inspectors immediately arrive on the scene and put a stop to it, while Arabs build structures of 8, 12 and 14 stories, and barely anything is ever done to stop it. It gives the message that there is no justice and no judge, and that they can do whatever they like, not only in building illegally but also in terms of drugs, robberies, stealing water and electricity… This is what happens when we cede our sovereignty …”
Dozens of activists protested Sunday against the relocation of government offices and the public broadcasting authority outside the capital. The protestors said we are facing a “disengagement from Jerusalem” and chanted “A capital without government – a disgrace to the state…”
PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared yet again that he sees eastern Jerusalem as the capital of the “future state of Palestine.” He insisted that he is not even willing to consider Jerusalem as a joint capital of two states, or to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
But worst of all is the new life that the Ramon Plan keeps receiving – the one promulgated by former Kadima Party and Histadrut leader Chaim Ramon, calling for a unilateral withdrawal from parts of Yerushalayim. The most recent expression of support came from, of all people, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who explained this week why we should simply transfer several Arab-populated areas from the Jerusalem municipality to Palestinian Authority control.
This, despite the tremendous international pressures that would result to “keep on going” and divide the city totally, as well as the expected security and other dangers to which it would lead.
In 2005, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the following at the Jerusalem Day commemoration at Ammunition Hill:
“For us, there is only one Jerusalem, and no other. It will be ours forever, and will never again be in the hands of foreigners…. We will fearlessly face the entire world and will ensure the future of united Jerusalem. For Jerusalem is the anchor, root of life, and faith of the Jewish people and we will never again part with it.
“Whoever wishes to know this should open the Bible, read and understand. Historic Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, will always be one, united, the capital of the state of Israel forever and ever.”
Many similarly beautiful and dramatic words have been expressed about Jerusalem and its eternal unity – yet we are well aware that words alone are far from sufficient. Given the current climate, how vigilant and proactive must we be to safeguard Jerusalem’s future.
To support KeepJerusalem’s efforts to ensure that Jerusalem remains united under Israeli sovereignty, and to take part in learning tours of critical areas of the city, send an email to email@example.com and visit the Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech website at www.keepjerusalem.org.
Hillel Fendel and Chaim Silberstein / KeepJerusalem.org