IsraelYom Yerushalayim

Yom Yerushalayim

Jslem67 Today is "Yom Yerushalayim," Jerusalem Day. The day when we celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem (according to the Hebrew calendar) in 1967.

I have to admit, I feel deeply ambivalent about this day.  On the one hand, 'when I watch the news clips from that June day in 1967 — which you can see here — a shiver runs down my spine when I hear the announcer yell "har habayit b'yadeinu!"  The Temple Mount is in our hands!  After 19 years of being in Jordan, 19 years when Jews were not allowed to pray at the holiest site in Judaism, to be able to return was fantastic.  To have the Temple Mount under Jewish authority for the first time in nearly 2000 years — what can you say?

On the other hand, the "reunification of Jerusalem" is used (abused) by those on the right who say "Jerusalem will never again be divided."  Meanwhile, the government of Israel has engaged in quite a bit of subterfuge in defining "Jerusalem."  Land miles away is now part of "Jerusalem."

Jerusalem has grown over time, from about 35 acres during the time of King David.  But in the interests of furthering a "land grab" the Israeli government has annexed land far from historical Jerusalem.

The truth is that Jerusalem is already a divided city.  Not too many of my Jewish friends hang out in Arab East Jerusalem, and you don't see a lot of Arabs in my neighborhood other than construction workers.  I'm one of the few Jewish Jerusalemites who actually does occasionally wander into the eastern part of the city.  It's a different world.  You go there and you really feel you are in a different country.  You feel much more like you are in the "Middle East" with signs all in Arabic and lots of street vendors, etc.

I certainly agree that in any peace deal with the Palestinians, there is no way that Israel should divide the historic part of the city most important to us.  We have to retain control over the Western Wall, etc.  At the same time, giving Jabal Mukaber or Sheikh Jarrah to the Palestinians is not going to hurt us.  Jews don't live in those places anyway, other than the ones who are trying to "Judaize" Arab neighborhoods.

I want to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim as meaning we can go to the old city.  I don't want to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim as a day meaning we insist on hanging on to Arab villages like Sheikh Jarrah.  Ceding the Arab part of East Jerusalem is not really dividing Jerusalem in my mind — it's not the historical Jerusalem, and it's not the part of Jerusalem that means that much to me.  What to do with the Old City is a much more complicated issue.

However you celebrate it…have a great "Yom Yerushalayim!"

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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