Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jerusalem Day

A few weeks ago, the entire country of Israel celebrated Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzma'ut).  Everything was closed.  Kids were off from school, all offices were closed, no mail was delivered.  The entire country celebrated 63 years of independence.  The smell of meat grilling on the BBQ (called Mangal in Hebrew) permeated every large city and small town in our homeland.

Indeed, we had great reason to celebrate on that day.  The entire Arab world tried to destroy a tiny nascent Jewish force, and miraculously, the Jewish soldiers, and their brand new government, we still standing at the end.

That was an important day in Jewish history.

Now, back to today.  I am sitting here in the yeshiva office.  All of the schools are open, the offices are open, it looks and feels like a normal business day in Israel.

It's a bit strange.  We should be rejoicing and celebrating all day today.  In many ways, Jerusalem Day celebrates a greater and more important miracle than Independence day.

The conditions in June 1967 were certainly different than in May 1948.  The Israeli army was stronger.  So were the combined armies of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.  The Arab goal was the same - a full eradication of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.

 The Independence war left many of our most important biblical sites under Jordanian control.  The Western Wall itself, along with the entire Temple Mount complex, were cut off from Jewish worshipers.  Hebron, Shechem, Jericho, Shilo, as well as a site very important to our Christian friends - Bethlehem - were completely cut off.

Barbed wire cut through the center of Jerusalem.  Judea and Samaria, aside from their historical importance, provide the high ground, looking over the central coastal plain; the most populated piece of Israel. (Think Tel-Aviv metro area).

In addition, the Israeli farmers in the North, along the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), were subject to rocket attacks from the Syrians directly above them in the Golan Heights.

In six short days, all of this changed.

Through bravery, fantastic intelligence, and the grace of G-d, ALL INVADING ARMIES WERE DEFEATED!

The Egyptian forces fell, and the entire Sinai Peninsula, as well as the Gaza Strip, became Israeli land.

Jordan was forced to retreat beyond the Jordan River, restoring Judea and Samaria to its rightful owners.

The Syrian army divisions threatened to demolish all of Northern Israel.  They were miraculously defeated, and the Golan Heights reverted to Jewish sovereignty for the first time in over a millennium.

However, today isn't called Judea-Samaria Day, or Six-Day War victory day.  It's called Jerusalem Day.

The most important piece of real estate redeemed from our enemies that week was not the Sinai  (which was later returned to Egypt in a peace deal), or Gaza (which has since been abandoned and become a Hamas terror base).  Judea, Samaria, and the Golan were more important, for strategic and historical reasons.  Yet even those great victories pale in comparison to the three little Hebrew words uttered over a crackling army radio:

HAR HABAYIT B'YADEINU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The Holy Temple.  Three times a day, every day, for nearly two thousand years, faithful Jews have prayed to return to the Temple Mount and rebuild our Holy Temple.

On this day, 44 years ago, step one was complete.

 Our holy city, the city rebuilt with centuries of tears and heartfelt prayers, had finally been reunited.
"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [its skill].  Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you; if I do elevate Jerusalem above my greatest joy."  -Psalms 137:5-6

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