Yom Yerushalayim 101

Yom Yerushalayim 2021, also known as Jerusalem Day, will be celebrated in Israel from sundown on Sunday, May 9 to sundown on May 10. While some communities outside of Israel celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, there are plenty of people who have never heard of the occasion. Whether this is your first or your 50th Jerusalem Day, read on to learn more about the holiday!

What is Yom Yerushalayim?

Yom Yerushalayim is a national Israeli holiday celebrating the unification of Jerusalem, which occurred during the Six Day War when the Israeli Defense Forces captured the neighborhoods in Jerusalem that had been under Jordanian control since 1948. These areas included the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, which is 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 considered a major victory for the IDF and Israel itself, and the reunification of Jerusalem became a point of pride for Jews around the world.

Jerusalem has changed hands many times throughout history. When Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, several neighboring Arab countries attacked the newborn state. As a result of this war, Jerusalem was divided: the Old City and East Jerusalem came under Jordanian control, while West Jerusalem was considered Israeli territory.

When is Yom Yerushalayim?

Like many Jewish and Israeli holidays, the date changes from year to year because it is observed based on the Hebrew date, not the Gregorian date, although the national holiday often falls sometime in May. The Hebrew date of Yom Yerushalayim is 28 Iyar.  Yom Yerushalayim 2021 will start at sundown on Sunday, May 9, and continue through May 10.

How is Yom Yerushalayim celebrated?

Many Israelis mark Yom Yerushalayim by attending concerts, parties, and marches. Organizations, synagogues, youth groups, and national leaders also often hold ceremonies that involve speeches, prayers, music, and stories from the Six Day War. Many ceremonies include the 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 will add Hallel while they are praying that day. Other rabbis have ruled that Yom Yerushalayim should not be considered a religious holiday. If you’re unsure of your community’s minhag, ask a trusted rabbi!

If you can’t make it to Jerusalem in time for Yom Yerushalayim 2021, check out our Top 10 Favorite Jerusalem-Inspired Gifts and bring a piece of the Holy City to you!