Israel celebrated the 45th annual commemoration of Yom Yerushalayim on Sunday May 20th. Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) marks the liberation of East Jerusalem from Jordanian rule during the Six Day War, the rejoining of East and West Jerusalem and the rededication of the Kotel Hamaaravi, the Western Wall of the Second Temple, as part of modern day Israel.
The commemoration included special prayer services, parades through Jerusalem, memorial gatherings in honor of the fallen soldiers, along with song, dance, and other forms of jubilation throughout the city.
At the Kol Rina Carlebach Synagogue, in the Nachlaot section of Jerusalem, the Shacharit (morning prayer) service included the recitation of Hallel with the accompaniment of Guitars and much dancing and singing. Prayers were also said in synagogues throughout Israel for the fallen soldiers who perished in the Six-Day War and the campaign to recapture east Jerusalem.
A special ceremony was held at the famed Givaat Hatachmoshet, Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, a key strategic point of battle during the six day war. The ceremony included a tribute to the wounded and fallen soldiers and speeches and reminiscences by President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Brakat.
Mayor Nir Barkat, who also spoke at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem on Shabbat, talked about his travels throughout the world promoting Jerusalem. Barkat said, “Jerusalem is the symbol of our hope as a Jewish nation, it connects the past, the present and the future.”
“Many have fallen, but the sacrifice was not for naught, for it is now a home for the 800,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem and a place for all nations and people to visit and behold. It is a grand city and a most beautiful and great city to live in.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about his recent visit to Europe. “I was in Prague at the Altneu Shul and the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardic, one small one large. When a Jew prays anywhere in the world, he faces Jerusalem. They face the place that is the symbol of our hope. Israel without Jerusalem is a body without a heart.” Netanyahu continued, “some think that we should give up the Temple Mount for the sake of peace, they are wrong, if we give up the Temple Mount, Israel will be a body with a weak heart. The IDF fought 45 years ago like lions with 182 sacrificing their lives for Jerusalem and 35 for the recapturing the Western Wall. They did it to rejoin Jerusalem and that is the way it will stay forever. I remember the day that General Moti Gur announced that the Temple Mount Jerusalem is in our hands. We lived to see it, King David and King Shlomo, Prophets Yeshayahu and Yirmiyahu all dreamed of it.”
Netanyahu concluded with a statement about the greatness of Jerusalem. Its spiritual greatness and its greatness as a metropolis, with its culture, museums and art. He said that “we will continue building Jerusalem in every direction” and “we will keep up the light of Jerusalem.”
Speaking with the Jewish Voice, Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger offered the following message for JV readers:
“We are very sensitive on this 45th anniversary of Yom Yerushalayim about our fellow Jews all over the world, as our Sages stated that the essence of Jerusalem is that it brings together all of Israel as brothers. Jews all over the world all feel a very special connection to the City of Jerusalem. I want to wish all of my brothers in the Diaspora and in particular in the United States, Mazal tov on this 45th Birthday of Unified Jerusalem. Much hatzlacha.”
The 45th Anniversary celebration ended with a massive “March of the Flags” by tens of thousands of people, primarily young adults and children, through the center of Jerusalem and down to the Western Wall Plaza where they danced and sang into the early hours of the morning.