Yom Yerushalayim 2023, also known as Jerusalem Day, will be celebrated in Israel from sundown on Thursday, May 18 to sundown on May 19.
Some Jewish communities outside of Israel celebrate Yom Yerushalayim as well, and it has become an occasion for Jews around the world to display their unity, Jewish pride, and love for Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. Whether you grew up celebrating Jerusalem Day or are new to the holiday, read on to learn more about this joyous occasion in the Jewish calendar!
What is Yom Yerushalayim?
Yom Yerushalayim (which translates to “Jerusalem Day”) is a national Israeli holiday celebrating the unification of Jerusalem, which occurred during the Six-Day War in 1967. The Israel Defense Forces had captured the parts of Jerusalem that were under Jordanian control since 1948, bringing the entire Holy City under Israeli sovereignty for the first time in modern history.
Jerusalem had changed hands many times throughout history, all the way up to modern times. When Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, several neighboring Arab countries immediately attacked the newborn state; as a result of this war, Jerusalem was divided: West Jerusalem became part of the Israeli state while the Old City and East Jerusalem came under Jordanian occupation, with Jews barred from entering.
All that changed in 1967, as the city became unified under Israeli control, including the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, the holiest standing site in Judaism. The IDF secured Jerusalem on the third day of the Six Day War (June 7, 1967) and held onto it until the war ended four days later.
The Six-Day War was a major victory for the IDF, for Israel, and for Jews around the world – not just strategically but also emotionally, as it solidified that Israel is here to stay and cannot be destroyed despite being surrounded by enemies, in addition to giving Jews access to our oldest and holiest sites. The victory inspired a new wave of Zionism and Jewish pride around the world, and the reunification of Jerusalem became a momentous event for Jews both in and outside Israel.
When is Yom Yerushalayim?
Like many Jewish and Israeli holidays, the secular date of Jerusalem Day changes from year to year because it is observed according to the Hebrew calendar, not the Gregorian one. The Hebrew date of Yom Yerushalayim is 28th of the month of Iyar, often falling in May. Yom Yerushalayim 2023 will start at sundown on Thursday, May 18 to sundown on May 19.
How is Yom Yerushalayim celebrated?
Many Israelis mark Yom Yerushalayim by attending concerts, parties, parades, and flag marches.
The holiday often takes a nationalist and Zionist theme, an almost second Independence Day celebrating Israeli sovereignty and pride.
Jerusalem Day ceremonies often include a reading of this famous quote by then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who said the following on the same day that Israel captured Jerusalem:
“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.”
Is Yom Yerushalayim a religious holiday?
It depends on who you ask! Some religious Jews consider Yom Yerushalayim to be a religious holiday and add Hallel (a hymn of praise that is recited on festivals) while they are praying that day. Other rabbis have ruled that Yom Yerushalayim should not be considered a religious holiday, and is treated as only a secular national holiday. If you’re unsure of your community’s norms and customs surrounding Jerusalem Day, ask a trusted rabbi!
No matter where you are, you can celebrate Yom Yerushalayim 2023 and the 56th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem with our fabulous Jerusalem-themed gifts from Israeli artists!
If you need help deciding, check out our guide to the Top 15 Gifts for Jerusalem Lovers, perfect for bringing a piece of the Holy City to you!
We’ve got the top made-in-Israel gifts inspired by the Holy City of Jerusalem, to help you connect with Jewish heritage and history wherever you are!