Jerusalem Day celebrated

Yesterday was Jerusalem Day, an Israeli holiday that celebrates the reunification of the city 35 years ago.

Young Israelis dance in Jerusalem, Israel's capital

From 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem was divided. The Western Wall, Judaism's most sacred place, was on the Eastern side of the city. Jewish worshipers turn to the Western Wall when praying, and until 1967 some could see the wall, but not touch it.

After the six day war in 1967 (see the history page), Jerusalem was reunited. It is today a vibrant city, with a bit over 630,000 residents and is also Israel's capital.

For a good article from the Jerusalem Post, see below.

Undivided, undeterred

Jerusalem was awash in blue and white yesterday, as a subdued but determined city forgot about the terrorism it has suffered and remembered its historic reunification 35 years ago.

It was a day marked by remembrance of those who fell in the battle for Jerusalem, and thanksgiving for what their heroism gave to Israel. It was a message made especially poignant this year.

“To our sorrow, the grandsons of those who fought in Israel’s War of Independence, and the sons of those who fought in the Six Day War, continue to fight for the defense of Jerusalem and the defense of the state to this very day,” President Moshe Katsav said at the official state ceremony marking Jerusalem Day at Ammunition Hill last night.

Calling the past year the most difficult the city has experienced since its reunification three-and-a-half decades ago, Mayor Ehud Olmert said the day was still very far away “when tranquility will return to our land.”

“The war that never quite left us returned to our streets, our bus stops, our restaurants, our markets,” he said. “The path of peace will not cut through Jerusalem our capital,” Olmert declared in an emotional speech in which he decried concessions that previous governments have weighed regarding Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who repeatedly vowed to safeguard Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided eternal capital,” said the Jewish people’s connection to the city did not wane during the 1,900 years that passed since the Roman invasion and the city’s reunification under Jewish control.

“Throughout that long period empires rose and fell, peoples and languages passed, and world orders were overturned,” he said at the ceremony, as the country’s blue and white flag fluttered in the cool evening wind. “Only one foundation remained strong, firmly implanted in its place: the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.”

Sharon said Jerusalem must forever remain under the sovereignty of the Jewish people alone. But he added that the rights of others who cherish the city to worship according to their faith must not be impinged, saying that only Israeli control over the entire city will ensure such religious freedom.

The achievements of the Paratroop Brigade in capturing the Old City during the Six Day War were recalled at the ceremony in the presence of Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz (himself a paratrooper), Chief Rabbis Yisrael Meir Lau and Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, fighters of the units who participated in the battle for Jerusalem, and families of those who fell in the fighting.

Several of the next generation of paratroopers, their red berets omnipresent in the crowd, stood at attention on the stage.

“It is a great honor to be here and think back for a moment to remember those in the past,” said St.-Sgt. Shlomi Dubik, 21, from Yavneh. His comrade Sgt. Lior Davison, 20, of Holon noted that the group of paratroopers had just returned from fighting in last month’s Operation Defensive Shield.

“The significance of us being here is twofold following the events of the last year,” said Sgt. Yehoshua Deston, 22, of Gush Etzion.

Thousands of flag-carrying youths marched from Sacher Park to the ramparts of the Old City and on to the Western Wall, while various marches and celebrations were held downtown to mark the holiday.

Katsav, Olmert, and Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky discussed Jerusalem’s past, present, and future in a satellite address moderated by Jerusalem Post publisher Tom Rose and organized by “One Jerusalem.”

As the official ceremony concluded and the sun set on a holiday that ended without incident, resident Avid Rachamim remarked: “It is quite a relief to feel the spirit of the holiday for a change.”

Posted by David Melle
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