Thousands of Israeli high school students from all over the country converge on Jerusalem to celebrate Yom herut Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Liberation Day), beginning this year on Thursday night, May 21. In the afternoon, dressed in blue and white, they gather the painted logos and banners of their respective institutions. Stepping off in broad daylight, they parade through the center of town — from Paris Square to Tzahal Square and on to Sha’ar Shechem (the Damascus Gate) on their way to the Kotel.
As they march, they fill the air with chants and songs extolling Jerusalem, Jewish nationalism, and Israeli/Zionist pride, fulfilling one of Zechariah’s prophecies. Heading through the gate, the march ends at the Kotel haMaaravi (The Western Wall). The joy continues, celebrating and dancing the night away to a rockin’, jammin’ concert.
The parade is exciting, fun, inspiring, and displays awesome unity, strength, and love among Israel’s Jewish youth — but is this all there is to Yom Yerushalayim: a parade to the Kotel haMaaravi, singing, and a light show concert at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount?
Does this atmosphere of Zionist pride with its strong Jewish presence in the holy streets of the Holy City help us achieve our dream of complete Jewish sovereignty in our holy, undivided eternal capital?
Are we using this day to reinforce demands for the legal responsibility and moral obligation of sovereignty in Yerushalayim? In what way do we not have sovereignty in Yerushalayim; what is it that we are ignoring, forgetting, abandoning, and paying mere lip service to?
“Har haBayit be’Yadeinu!” (The Temple Mount is in our hands!)
On that unforgettable, majestic day in June 1967, Jewish soldiers crashed through the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. Redeeming, reclaiming, liberating the ancient streets and alleyways, racing towards the walls, bursting through the Lion’s Gate and then — the electrifying words of the Commander, Motti Gur, “הר הבית בידינו (The Temple Mount is in our hands)!”
In six days, we pushed back five different Arab armies, joined in their deadly attack designed to obliterate the Jewish state. After 2,000 years of yearning to return, we recaptured the cities of Shechem (Nablus), Hebron, Jericho, and Gaza, as well as the Sinai, the Golan Heights, and most important of all — Jerusalem! During those days, only the blind could not sense G-d’s Divine Presence and the Messiah knocking on the door, crying, pleading to bring the complete Redemption, and perhaps even threatening, “Return to me and I will return to you!”
There was not a Jewish heart that did not pound with a sense of the Divine in that historic moment. There was not a Jewish spine — so straight and proud after two millennia of being stooped — that did not shiver with a sense of awe. There was not a Jew — even the most extreme of scoffers — who, at that moment, did not see G-d!
Jerusalem — where electric shocks of ecstasy, a national thrill of incredulity, swept the Jewish people throughout the world, as Israel’s Jewish troops smashed into the Old City, sweeping away terrified Arabs before them as chaff in the wind. Jerusalem — the City of David, Jerusalem of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the Holy of Holies, Zion — all of it was in Jewish hands.
By the tens of thousands, Jews streamed through the alleyways of the Old City where just a few days before the Jordanian Arabs had illegally ruled and occupied the area, their snipers shooting at any Jew who dared set foot there. Now, the Arabs were gripped by fear in Jerusalem as pride, confidence and certainty surrounded the Jews in the wake of the awesome Six Day War. On that glorious day in 1967, there were no shouts of “Allah hu akbar (Islamic war cry: Allah is greater).”
Over 2,000 years ago, the Temple Mount was stolen from the Jews by the Romans under Hadrian, passing from them to the Byzantine Empire and then on to the invading Muslim armies in the late 600s (CE). Briefly held by the Crusader kingdom, it was taken again by the Muslims and held until 1967, when it was finally liberated by the returning Jews.
“Gone is the joy of our hearts… because of Mt. Zion, which is desolate; the foxes walk over it” (Eicha 5:18)
Sadly, the very moment of glorious Jewish victory turned out to be the beginning of a flight to shame. Today, the Temple Mount is not ‘in our hands’. East Jerusalem is not ‘in our hands’. Judea, Samaria, and Gaza are not ‘in our hands’. The Biblical eretz Yisrael, which we liberated through G-d’s decree in 1967, is not ‘in our hands’.
Today, the Temple Mount is in their hands — the cunning, evil foxes. And the words of Motti Gur ring hollow — and we are to blame. We took a miracle, disdained it and handed control of the Temple Mount to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. We took a gift, a dream, and turned it into the worst exile imaginable. We, who were given a Zion, a Jerusalem, a Temple Mount — gave it over to the foxes.
Then Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, recognizing the historic moment in 1967, said, “We have returned to all that is holy in our land. We have returned never to be parted from it again.” He then promptly ensured that (a) no markings of Israeli sovereignty would be seen on the Temple Mount, (b) the IDF would not station troops to control the Temple Mount, and (c) no Jewish prayer would be permitted on the Mount, instead leaving it in the hands of a Muslim waqf.
Since then, the Arabs have systematically destroyed every vestige of Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, disposing of valuable, precious archaeological evidence dating from the First Temple period forward. They have denied any non-Muslim connection to the site, denying the presence of Judaism’s two holy temples. As they tunneled into the mount, creating new mosques and destroying existing structures, they grew more passionately convinced that the Jews would do nothing to stop them.
Indeed in the more than 50 years since 1967, Israeli police have again and again forcibly removed Jews attempting to pray on Judaism’s holiest site, despite the Israel Supreme Court ruling that Jews have the right to pray on the Temple Mount. And even the judges have prevented Jewish prayer at times, even on yom Yerushalayim. Though Jews may have an unquestionable right to be on the Temple Mount, public order overrules that right, according to the Court.
By not embracing the Temple Mount and fighting for the right to pray there, the Jews provide unwitting support to the idea that the land taken in 1967 was not liberated, but was taken from another. Our actions show that we do not believe we have come as returnees to our ancient homeland, to our own borders, but instead that — chas v’chalila — we are the occupiers of someone else’s land. Surely, one who loses his property and then unexpectedly finds it, does not allow it to remain in the possession of another. Instead, he leaps upon it joyfully and shouts out: “It is mine!”
“… for the sake of Jerusalem I will not hold my peace (Isaiah 62:1)”
Our love of Jerusalem, enshrined in yom Yerushalayim, obligates each and every Jew to erase this chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name). The Jews have come home to Zion and we have welded our city together with a fierce tightness that none can sunder. A people which patiently bided its time for millennia will not ever give back its capital.
We are a nation stubborn enough to awaken during thousands of years at midnight to weep for Zion, and obstinate enough to pray from the North, South, East and West — three times a day, four times on Sabbaths and holidays, and five times on the Day of Atonement — for the day when the Divine Presence will return to the Holy City. We must surely do more to bring back the honor of G-d to the holy Temple Mount.
Every Jew must take a deep internal look and ask difficult, painful questions. How is it possible to honestly pray three times a day for G-d to restore us to the heart of Zion, i.e., the Temple Mount, when that restoration is in front of us? How do we answer those who question the sincerity of our lamentations and yearning for the heart of Zion — to go up to har habayit (the Temple Mount) — when we can simply ascend the Temple Mount, following a competent guide or rabbi, who knows the halacha (Jewish law) for preparation, for movement on the pathways, and the ramifications of where to go and not go?
How should we hide our shame when we fervently proclaim, “Next year in ‘Rebuilt’ Jerusalem” — for next year has already come, the gates of har habayit are open, the obligation to return to the holy mountain is not only possible but demands to be fulfilled and rebuilt. We have a responsibility to go up and build G-d’s dwelling on Earth, the beit HaMikdash.
For two thousand years, we wept for the city that was torn away from us in blood and fire; today that city is returned to us and never again will it leave our possession. For centuries we were forced to visit our capital as strangers, at the sufferance of those who mocked us, reviled us and expelled us at their whim. Jordan prevented us from ascending the holy Temple Mount, from treading on the doorstep to the Holy Mount, and certainly from placing our slips of pleadings in the crevices of the Wall as they kept the area judenrein (cleansed of Jews) for 20 years, even as they used the Jewish tombstones of the Mount of Olives for latrines.
Today we sit as ba’alei-batim, i.e., possessors and holders of title to our land and never again will that title be effectively challenged. Today tens of thousands of Jews go up to the Temple Mount and pray at the Wall even as all others can pursue their own faiths with no one to prevent them.
We say the words in our daily prayers; we shout the slogans at the yom Yerushalayim parades. Do we intend to follow up on them or are they empty and meaningless phrases? What an impression it would create in young Israeli minds if we only showed the courage of our convictions!
It is up to each of us to teach and emphasize to one another the obligation to have a hand in rebuilding the beit HaMikdash on har habayit. It’s up to our nation of Israel to take steps to implement it. As Torah Jews, we know the commandment to build a sanctuary for G-d is more than just one of the 613 mitzvot — indeed, fully one-third of all other mitzvot depend on it.
We believe that if an alien hand attempts to seize Jerusalem again, it will surely be cut off. We pray for the peace of the city, because if war comes over it, the whole world will be pulled into the conflict — and in the end the city will remain Jewish. In blood and fire did she rise — never again to sink to her knees.
This is surely the promise we give the world; the guarantors of this promise are the same ones our ancestors brought before the G-d of Israel at Mount Sinai — our children, who walk the streets of our Jerusalem, marching on the day it was liberated and united. With the purity of their belief and trust and the strength of their young arms, they will assure that these streets, stones, hills, and homes will continue to be Jewish, ever more.