Jerusalem, once a distant dream, is now an inseparable part of the State of Israel. With its bustling city center, thriving sports teams, and status as Israel’s capital, Jerusalem holds a significant place in the hearts of Israelis. As we commemorate Jerusalem Day, a holiday established to celebrate the historic reunification of the city, we delve into its origins, customs and the profound meaning it holds for both the Israeli and Jewish communities.
The journey to unification
Following the War of Independence, Jerusalem was divided, with East Jerusalem, including the revered Old City and the Temple Mount, under Jordanian control. For 21 years, Jerusalem stood as a symbol of separation. However, in 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israeli paratroopers proclaimed, “The Temple Mount is in our hands,” marking the reunification of Jerusalem and the end of its division.
The significance for Israel and the Jewish people
The reunification of Jerusalem held immense importance for both Israel and the Jewish people. Without regaining control of East Jerusalem and the Old City, Jewish access to holy sites like the Western Wall and the Temple Mount would have been impossible. Recognizing this historic event’s significance, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel established Jerusalem Day, which later became a national holiday through legislation.
Jerusalem Day customs and celebrations
Jerusalem Day, although relatively young at 55 years, is rich in customs and traditions. The notable event that characterizes the day is the parade of flags, drawing thousands of participants who march from the city center to the Western Wall, proudly waving Israeli flags. Additionally, a thanksgiving rally at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva gathers prominent Israeli leaders, including the President, Prime Minister, Chief of Staff, Mayor of Jerusalem and Chief Rabbis.
A day of remembrance
Coinciding with Jerusalem Day, another significant commemoration takes place—the Day of Remembrance for Ethiopian Jews who perished on their journey to Israel. This day serves as a solemn remembrance of the sacrifices and hardships endured by Ethiopian Jews as they sought refuge and dreamed of reaching Jerusalem. A memorial ceremony is held at Mount Herzl, honoring the 1,388 Ethiopian Jews who lost their lives in the Sudanese desert.
The eternal connection
Jerusalem Day signifies the unbreakable bond between the Jewish people and the holy city. From the timeless verses of Psalms expressing yearning for Jerusalem’s restoration to the vows made at weddings and Passover seders, Jerusalem holds a central place in Jewish hearts. With each passing Jerusalem Day, the city grows and flourishes, embodying the fulfillment of a shared dream.
As we celebrate Jerusalem Day, we reflect on the remarkable journey that led to the unification of this sacred city. The holiday serves as a testament to Israel’s resilience, the realization of a dream, and the eternal connection between the Jewish people and this city. With each passing year, we reaffirm our commitment to preserving and building upon the legacy of Jerusalem, ensuring its significance endures for generations to come.
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.
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