Sunday, May 17, 2015

What is ‘Jerusalem Day’?

A couple days ago, essayist Miriam Elman published a piece about Jerusalem Day (“Five Reasons to Celebrate Jerusalem Day”, Legal Insurrection, May 15, 2015). I’d like you to look at it. It makes a proper companion piece to the essay following, below.

I have edited/rewritten parts of this essay to fit my format:


The newest addition to the Jewish calendar is Yom Yirushalayim, Jerusalem Day. It’s held on the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar—six weeks after the Passover seder and one week before the eve of the holiday of Shavuot. This year, 2015, the 28th of Iyar falls on Sunday, May 17.

In June 1967, 28 Iyar was the third day of the Six Day War. On that day, Jerusalem was reunified as Israel’s capital city.

It’s the day we now call, Yom Yerushalayim—Jerusalem Day. It’s the day when, 48 years ago, Jewish fighting forces brought Jerusalem “back to Jewish sovereignty”.

To celebrate this day, thousands of Israelis head to the city. They go to dance in the streets. They go for the  annual ’Flag Parade’.

But as MyJewishLearning notes, Yom Yerushalayim can make some politically liberal Jews uncomfortable. For them, the city is too controversial.

It’s a shame. Jerusalem Day deserves to be celebrated with pride and joy—openly and without reservation.

Why Celebrate Jerusalem Day? Here are five reasons:

REASON #1: Jewish holy places are liberated from an illegal Jordanian occupation.

In 1949 Jordan ethnically cleansed every last Jew from the ancient Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

Then, in a shameless violation of the April 1949 truce agreement, for nearly two decades Jordan denied Jews the right to worship at the Western Wall.

The restrictions against the Jews were so severe that tourists who wanted to cross over from west Jerusalem into the Jordanian-controlled part of the city had to produce a baptismal certificate.

 REASON #2: The whole city of Jerusalem is reclaimed and reunited under Israeli sovereignty.

On June 7, 1967, the third day of the Six Day War, the 55th Paratroopers Brigade received the order to take the Old City. They succeeded. In theory, Jews are no longer restricted. Neither are Arabs.

REASON #3: Jewish Jerusalem is reconstituted.

The Jordanian authorities spent their nineteen year rule looting, ransacking, befouling, and dynamiting every last vestige of Jewish heritage.

As Marshall J. Breger of the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America and co-author of a seminal study on the city describes: twenty-seven synagogues and some thirty schools were damaged or destroyed. The Porath Yosef, Hurva, and Tiferet Israel synagogues were destroyed. The famous Yohanan ben Zakkai Synagogue was devastated from within and survived only as a shell. The synagogue founded by the great biblical scholar Nachmanides in 1267 was  devastated…the hallowed Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives suffered a similar fate…Graves ripped open, and bones scattered; thousands of tombstones smashed or removed by the Jordanian army to build fortifications, footpaths, army camps, and latrines…The Jewish Quarter was so thoroughly destroyed, according to news reporters, that it had the look of Stalingrad or Berlin in World War II”.

Israel’s been restoring these Jewish heritage sites since 1967.

REASON #4: Jewish faithful can now, in theory, visit the Temple Mount.

Jewish visits to the Temple Mount have increased by 92% since 2009. According to new figures released in January, 10,906 Jews ascended the Temple Mount in 2014, up 28% from the 8,528 who visited the site in 2013.

It’s something that a number of rabbinic authorities see as the Jewish people’s “spiritual awakening, and reconnecting—not only to their most holy site, but to their own destiny”.
Jews still cannot pray on the Temple Mount. But with the Mount in Jewish hands, that day will come.

REASON #5: It Reaffirms the Jewish connection to the holy city and to the land.

For nearly a century, Arab Muslims have belittled, denied and denigrated Jerusalem’s Jewish past. As noted by scholar Yitzhak Reiter, who has extensively researched the contemporary Muslim denial of the Jewish Temple and Western Wall: Islamic nationalists, be they clerics, academics or politicians, seek to refute claims regarding Jerusalem’s centrality to Judaism; they deny the Jewish Temple’s existence in Jerusalem and assert that the Western Wall is not an authentic remnant of the Temple’s external supporting wall…the Arab-Muslim meta-narrative tries to deny any serious or long-lasting connection of Jews and Judaism to Jerusalem and the land.  Yom Yerushalayim reminds the world that, despite the Arab attempts to re-write history, Jerusalem is ‘Jewish’.

This Day reminds us of the basic truths of Jewish heritage: Jerusalem is intimately connected to the history of the Jewish people. It's the Day we celebrate that history. It's the Day we assert our sovereign legitimacy over the Jewish eternal capital city, Jerusalem.


My comment: the original is better than my summary/rewrite. But this summary and the original represent a good introduction to the essay immediately below, entitled, “Jerusalem Day and a parade Israel’s Leftists hate”.

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