Jerusalem Day: “We Returned to Our Home and We Will Keep it Forever”

May 14, 2018

by: Ilse Strauss

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Jerusalem Day celebration and flag march

Monday, 14 May 2018 | The Israeli calendar is punctuated with days set aside to remember. Some are somber, commemorating the tragedies, sacrifice and loss scattered throughout the history of the Jewish people. Others are joyous, recalling the triumphs, miracles and bravery on which the Jewish state is built. Jerusalem Day or Yom Yerushalayim certainly falls into the latter category.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the reunification of the City of Gold, the eternal capital of Israel and the spot that has featured as the central theme of Jewish culture, history, religion, fervent longing, answered prayer and promise fulfilled for over three millennia. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her,” Isaiah 66:10 instructs. On Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem and those who love her celebrate with exuberant joy.

Just over half a century has passed since the searing summer day during the Six Day War of 1967 when a brigade of Israeli paratroopers broke through the Lion’s Gate in the Old City, reclaimed the Kotel (Western Wall) and liberated Jerusalem. Yesterday marked 51 years since the ancestors of Abraham and David returned to their eternal capital, 51 years since the City of Gold was reunited and 51 years since the Jewish people have been able to say, “This year in Jerusalem!”

According to the Gregorian calendar, Israel liberated and reunified Jerusalem on July 7, 1967. Yet the people of the Promised Land commemorate its historical, significant and biblical feast dates according to the biblical calendar and mark the reunion between the City of Gold and its rightful owners on the 28th day of the month of Iyar [April-May]. Using the Gregorian calendar, this year’s official anniversary started at sundown on Saturday and continued until dusk last night.

For the past few weeks, the City of Gold has been decked in blue-and-white finery for the special celebrations. Posters and banners advertised the joyous events to come. Flags adorned with the Star of David and the Lion of Judah—Jerusalem’s municipal emblem—streamed proudly from lamp poles, bridges and high-rises.

Since sunrise yesterday morning, Israelis from all over the country flocked to Jerusalem to take part in the Yom Yerushalayim festivities. Just after midday, the main roads in Israel’s capital closed in preparation for the traditional Jerusalem Day parade known as the Flag March. This year was no different. Some 45,000 people—all decked out in white and blue—started from the city center and headed towards the Damascus Gate and into the Old City. From there the route wound through the Muslim Quarter, before reaching the Western Wall for an official Jerusalem Day ceremony. The jubilant pilgrimage painted the city streets the vivid colors of the flag of Israel.

It is a jubilant pilgrimage that paints the city in the vivid colors of the flag of Israel. Streets resounded with the jubilant sounds of young voices singing “Am Yisrael Chai” (the nation of Israel lives). On street corners and in public squares, friends and perfect strangers joined hands to dance the rikud degalim, or flag dance.

“Generations of Jews dreamed of Jerusalem from a distance,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last night. “For them it was prayer, longing, sometimes a picture on the wall. But we, thank G-d, are in a united, glamorous Jerusalem that is built from end to end in a most impressive manner; this is a real redemption.”

“What is Jerusalem for us?” Netanyahu continued. “It’s not just a physical and tangible place. Jerusalem is the source of the faith and hope that strengthened us in difficult times. In the shadow of the Inquisition, the pogroms, the ghettos, in the camps we said one sentence: ‘Next year in Jerusalem.’”

“We returned to Jerusalem and we are building it, all of it, and even when there was no progress on the horizon, we stuck to the dream, and today the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers are standing at the foot of the Western Wall, declaring allegiance to our army and our country. We returned home and we are determined to keep our home forever.”

This year’s Yom Yerushalayim celebrations occur as part of a series of exciting and significant events in the Promised Land. The festivities come a day before the Gregorian anniversary of the modern State of Israel gaining independence on May 14, 1948 and roughly 24 hours before the US will unveil the seal and dedication plaque of America’s embassy in the City of Gold, an official sign that the world’s only superpower recognizes Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

In honor of the new embassy opening its doors, Israel’s Foreign Ministry hosted a lavish red-white-and-blue reception to thank US President Donald Trump for his decision. Trump himself was not in attendance, but sent his special envoy to the Middle East peace process, Jared Kushner, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, as his representatives.

Addressing the crowd of high-level diplomats, politicians and Israel advocates, Netanyahu said, “This is a momentous time. President Trump is making history. We are deeply grateful, and our people will be eternally grateful, for his bold decision.”

According to the prime minister, Trump’s decision reflected a fundamental truth: “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years, has been the capital of our state for the past 70 years, and will remain our capital for all time.”

Netanyahu also issued a clarion call to all nations that still have their embassy buildings in Tel Aviv. “Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it is the right thing to do; move your embassies to Jerusalem because it advances peace, because you can’t base peace on a foundation of lies; you base peace on a foundation of truth.”

Posted on May 14, 2018

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 14 May 2018)

Photo Credit: Ashernet