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“Motta was very depressed. He informed me that he had received orders not to enter the Old City but rather to surround it from all sides. Under no circumstances was he to enter the city. He added that apparently the policy was to leave the Old City in the hands of the city’s Arab population without conquering it.

“To this I replied that were I in his shoes, I would not be able to resist such an historic opportunity to liberate the Temple Mount after 2,000 years. After all, what is the worst that could happen? They could put me on trial and perhaps sentence me to imprisonment. Better that I spend my whole life in prison so that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount be free than to be free while Jerusalem remained enslaved.”


— From the diary of Rabbi Shlomo Goren (chief rabbi of the IDF in 1967).

Why did the Chief Rabbinate declare Jerusalem Day a national holiday? Most know the answer: In June 1967, Israel was miraculously saved from certain and cruel annihilation by her Arab neighbors. We also returned to our holiest, most treasured soil and sites after millennia of longing and dreaming.

But which Jews today actually celebrate this day? Which Jews are even aware of it?

Outside of Israel, perhaps a very small pocket of “Young Israel” types – maybe. That’s it.

And in Israel, where it really counts? Israel’s Arabs call it the day of “the disaster.” They remember. I get it.

Secular Jews for the most part ignore it, at best. Some see the day as an unnecessary provocation to the Arabs who aren’t happy with Israel’s miraculous escape from genocide in 1967. Remembering the Jewish return to its holiest sites upsets them. Is that nice? It’s a provocation. Just keep things quiet. No need for fanatical messianic celebrations.

The “charedi community,” meanwhile, or at least its leadership, turns their noses up at anything that smacks of nationalism. It’s deemed irrelevant, childish, and dangerous. Life at the mercy of the nations was so much holier apparently. The fulfillment of the prophets’ words upsets their idyllic lives and religious certitude.

Who else is upset today? The rest of the world.

As Arabs attack Jews in Jerusalem, angry condemnations and warnings roll in from all over the world – not condemning Arab lynching and terrorizing Jews but something the Jews did. I’m not sure what it is this time. But it never matters.

If the world is upset, it only means we’re doing something right.

Restraint is urged on “all sides.” Imagine an outside body calling for “restraint on all sides” after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Why is Jerusalem (when the Jews are in control) such a red flag for the entire world? You would think there are some other problems around the world.

The prophets – Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zacharia, Joel – all foretold the period we’re living in now. They spoke of all the nations coming against Jerusalem and G-d standing with His People against the rest of the world. Pretty heavy stuff.

Jerusalem Day has become the holiday celebrated by the “National Religious camp.” They are the last ones “waving the flag,” literally and figuratively. They drank from the springs of the great revolutionary thinker of Jewish national/spiritual redemption. Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook taught what it means to be a Jew in our prophetic times. They understand that without destiny, existence is meaningless.

It reminds me of a quote by Nietzsche: “He who has a why can bear almost any how.” Who in Israel possess the why? Some Jews prefer to erase our “hard drive” memory and induce national amnesia. Shimon Peres encouraged young Jews to ignore history.

Prime Minister Olmert said, “We are tired of fighting, tired of winning. We want a country that is fun to live in.”

For these types, the one question that most irritates them is: To whom does Jerusalem belong? To the people of the Tanach or the people of the Koran?

The Muslims know the answer. The Israeli elites hate the uncomfortable question.

On Monday, Netanyahu declared that Jerusalem was experiencing violence at the hands of “intolerant people.” Take that in for a moment. I thought it was Arabs attacking Jews. Did I miss something? We are led by people who fear the words “enemy,” “victory,” “right and wrong.”

Netanyahu is a very skilled politician. He is a great pilot. Flying to where? It remains a mystery.

In the exile Jews were hostage to their hosts. Today in our own land it seems that we have made ourselves hostages to our guests.


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Shalom Pollack, a veteran Israeli tour guide, served in the Israeli Navy and lectures on the Mideast.