Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim)
Monday, May 10, 2021 is Jerusalem day this year, 54 years to Jerusalem being united.
When we visit Jerusalem, its hard to believe that until 1967, you couldn’t actually visit the Old City within the walls, since it was under Jordan. Jews were allowed access to the Western Wall, the holiest place for Jews, only after the six days war. Why do we have a day dedicated all to Jerusalem? What is the importance of this day?
Go to our website www.israelwithmoshe.com and visit the “Jewish Holidays” video series
From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count
Jerusalem Day (יום ירושלים, Yom Yerushalayim) is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old Cityin the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War. The day is officially marked by state ceremonies and memorial services.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to mark the regaining of access to the Western Wall.
Under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which proposed the establishment of two states in British Mandatory Palestine – a Jewish state and an Arab state – Jerusalem was to be an international city, neither exclusively Arab nor Jewish for a period of ten years, at which point a referendum would be held by Jerusalem residents to determine which country to join. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, including the internationalization of Jerusalem, but the Arabs rejected the proposal.
On 15 May 1948, the day after Israel declared its independence, it was attacked by its Arab neighbors. Jordan seized East Jerusalem and the Old City. Israeli forces made a concerted attempt to dislodge them, but were unable to do so. By the end of the 1948 Arab=Israeli War Jerusalem was left divided between Israel and Jordan. The Old City and East Jerusalem continued to be occupied by Jordan, and the Jewish residents were forced out. Under Jordanian rule, half of the Old City’s fifty-eight synagogues were demolished and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was plundered for its tombstones, which were used as paving stones and building materials.
This state of affairs changed in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War. Before the start of the war, Israel sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan, saying that Israel would not attack Jerusalem or the West Bank as long as the Jordanian front remained quiet. Urged by Egyptian pressure and based on deceptive intelligence reports, Jordan began shelling civilian locations in Israel, to which Israel responded on 6 June by opening the eastern front. The following day, 7 June 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem.
Later that day, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared what is often quoted during Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim):
This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples’ holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity.
The war ended with a ceasefire on 11 June 1967.
On 12 May 1968, the government proclaimed a new holiday – Jerusalem Day – to be celebrated on the 28th of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the divided city of Jerusalem became one. On 23 March 1998, the Knesset (Parliament) passed the Jerusalem Day Law, making the day a national holiday.
One of the themes of Jerusalem Day, based on a verse from the Psalms, is “Built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together” (Psalm 122:3).
While the day is not widely celebrated outside Israel, and has lost its significance for most secular Israelis, the day is still very much celebrated by Israel’s Religious Zionists community with parades and additional prayers in the synagogue.
Watch a short video I made about this day below: