Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) is the newest holiday on the Jewish calendar, one that commemorates the liberation and reunification of Israel’s capital on the third day of the Six-Day War in June 1967. Since the War of Independence in 1948, Jerusalem had been divided, with the western side of the city under Israeli control, and the eastern side under the control of Jordan. After eastern Jerusalem was liberated, the dividing walls were destroyed and soon after the Knesset passed legislation officially extending Israeli sovereignty over the entire city.
Although Jerusalem has been considered the capital city of the Jewish people since the time of King David, who conquered and built it as the capital of his kingship in approximately 1000 B.C.E., 1967 marked the first time in thousands of years that the entire city of Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism, was under total Jewish sovereignty! The following year, on May 12, 1968, the Israeli government voted to commemorate this day as “Jerusalem Day.”
The aftermath of this day was far-reaching not only in the Jewish collective consciousness, but on the ground as well. Jerusalem underwent an intensive process of development. Institutions were built, new neighborhoods were set up, an extensive system of transportation infrastructure was constructed, and the city’s population skyrocketed.
Almost fifty years later, Jerusalem day continues to be an annual celebration of the Israel’s unbreakable bond with Jerusalem. Sung at every Jewish wedding throughout history were the words: Im eshkachech Yerushalayim tishkach yemini. Tidbak l’shoni l’chiki im lo ezkerechi, im lo e’aleh et Yerushalayim al rosh simchati. (If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.) Even in the moment of greatest joy, we were always mindful of our unfulfilled national destiny as symbolized by the ruins of Jerusalem. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE began thousands of years of exile of the Jewish people. The reunification of Jerusalem was considered another important step in their long awaited redemption, an ancient dream finally coming true.