Just as Yom HaAtzmanut celebrates all of Israel, Jerusalem Day, specifically celebrates Israel’s capital city. Jerusalem Day 2019 is this coming Sunday, and the whole city will be celebrating 52 years since Jerusalem was reunified with Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. Parties and parades happen throughout the city and the day is actually considered to be a minor religious holiday, but is celebrated by Jews of all backgrounds.
On May 14, 1948 when Israel declared independence, Israel also began a war with all of her neighboring countries. Jordan took over East Jerusalem including Mount Scopus and the Old City. The Old City was the center of Jewish life and Mount Scopus had the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital which had to be evacuated in a military operation following a blockade. Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital opened new branches on the western side of the city while the Jewish people longed for their return to The Old City.
Fast forward to June 1967- tensions are high and war breaks out on June 5, ultimately resulting in Israel at war with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. While the war only lasted six days, Israel managed to accomplish a lot, including taking back the Old City of Jerusalem. On June 6, Israel began fighting with Jordan, and on June 7 Jerusalem was in Israeli hands while IDF paratroopers made their way to the Western Wall. One can find sound recordings of Lt. General Motta Gur announcing the walk through the Old City and General Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the chief rabbi of the IDF blowing the shofar at the Western Wall, marking a Jewish Jerusalem for the first time since the Second Temple – nearly 2,000 years ago.
Jerusalem Day was officially established in 1968 to be celebrated on the Hebrew date of Jerusalem’s reunification on the 28th of Iyar, but only in 1998 did it become a national holiday. On this day, Hebrew University holds its annual Student Day, which is also open to the public, featuring top musicians and performers. The Yakir Yerushalayim Award is given to an outstanding Jerusalem citizen, and a parade through the Old City takes place, accompanied with singing and dancing. This year on Jerusalem Day, whether you are taking to the streets to celebrate, or attending one or several concerts happening in Jerusalem, keep in mind the privilege we have to be alive to see this awesome city back in Jewish hands, and never forget the sacrifice made then and now to ensure that it stays in the right hands.