Celebrating A United Jerusalem


For many Israelis, Iyar 28 was the best day of the Six-Day War.

That was the date — June 6, 1967 on the secular calendar — when a divided Jerusalem became united, Israeli paratroopers capturing the Temple Mount, defeating Jordanian troops, crying at the Western Wall, ending 19 years of Arab rule that had kept Jews away from some of their holiest sites.

Under Jordanian rule, since Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, the walled Old City was out of bounds, scores of synagogue were demolished, Mount of Olives tombstones were used as paving material for roads, and the area around the Western Wall was a garbage dump.

On Iyar 28 43 years ago, for the first time in two millennia, Jerusalem was again the united capital of an autonomous Jewish nation. Within a year, the Chief Rabbinate established Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, a week before Shavuot, as a minor religious holiday, including the recital of Hallel Psalms verses.

Today, the city is open — no barbed wire, no border checkpoints, no barriers between the Jewish and Arab sections, no bars on religious worship.

In Israel, Yom Yerushalayim was marked last Wednesday with state ceremonies, memorial services, special curricula and assemblies in schools, singing and dancing, lectures and television programming, parades and hikes.

Iyar 28 has become a pilgrimage date, when thousands of Israelis hike to the capital, ending their trek at the Kotel, as the Western Wall is known in Hebrew. Each year, many Israelis, especially members of the religious Zionist movement, march through the Old City.

Iyar 28 this year was politicized, the fate of Jerusalem uncertain under terms of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

To reinforce Jewish claims on the city, the Orthodox Union placed full-page ads in several Jewish newspapers that stressed Jerusalem’s place “at the core of Jewish identity.”

To prevent violence when marchers wend through Arab east Jerusalem to the Old City, police announced that they would not allow the march to pass through the Damascus Gate, an entrance to the Old City in a heavily populated Arab section. Police rescinded the ban at the last minute; Israelis, left, gathered outside the Damascus Gate.

A border policeman stood guard on a Jerusalem rooftop, above. Despite concern, Iyar 28 was again a day of celebration.