Today is Yom Yerushalyim, Jerusalem Day, the day we commemorate the re-uniting of Jerusalem in the 6 Day War in 1967. It’s a perfect day for a visit to the Western Wall. In fact, this morning, the Western Wall plaza was full of people singing, dancing together to celebrate the day.
In 1967, just after the war, all of Israel came to the Western Wall. Puah Shteiner–an author who had been a young girl in the Old City of Jerusalem during the siege and surrender in 1948–writes:
“There are those who cry at such a meeting with the Western Wall, but I did not. I did not cry, for I knew that this was no longer the Wailing Wall. The Wailing Wall — remnant of the destruction of our Beit HaMikdash (Temple) — had become a place of joy and redemption. I opened my eyes and looked at the women nearby…Those who were familiar with the prayers recited long passages from their siddur (prayer book), while others simply whispered a request. Some had never in their lives uttered a formal prayer, but their hearts, their hearts spoke wordlessly. Still others did not pray at all; they simply walked up to the Wall and silently put a note into one of the cracks in the ancient stones. From all directions came the sounds of prayer – prayers in all versions, uttered in countless accents, sung to different tunes. Here at the Wall, the Jewish people were one, united, whole. (Forever My Jerusalem).
There is a remarkable connection between the unity of the Jewish people and the unity of Jerusalem both in modern and ancient times.
Regarding our current story, on June 1st 1967, just a few days prior to the victory of the 6 Day War, the government of the State of Israel had formed a National Unity government including Levi Eshkol and Menachem Begin, brining together parties that no one would have anticipated would have come together.
We have many sources in the Tanach (Bible) about the direct connection between the unity of the Jewish people and peace and unity in Jerusalem.
Over 3,000 years ago, when King David was about to make Jerusalem the capital, all the tribes of Israel came together to acknowledge David as their king (not just his own tribe of Judah). (2 Samuel 5:1-4)
The Book of Ezra (written over 2,500 years ago), tells us that when the Jews returned to the Land of Israel, they each returned to various cities that they came from. But when they were ready to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, “The people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.” (Ezra 3:1).
Interestingly, this phrase (c’ish echad, as one person) reminds us of the commentary on the Torah that tells us about the unity of the Jewish people when receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai which we celebrate next week on the holiday of Shavuot.
We know the opposite is also true. When the Jewish people are divided, Jerusalem is divided and can be taken away from the Jewish people.
We know from various sources that this is exactly what happened when the Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE and the Jewish people lost control of the Land of Israel to the Romans.
Today, there is much speculation about PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent move towards a unity government. Does it mean a war with Iran is near? Is it a sign of insecurity? Is it a political ploy?
Today, on Jerusalem Day, let’s remember that throughout Jewish history, unity of the Jewish people has always led to strength and peace for the Jewish people, and may this unity government also be a sign of good things to come.
© 2012, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.
Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com