Jerusalem Day is a day that commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six Day War in 1967. Why is Jerusalem Day considered a minor religious holiday in Israel?
History Before Jerusalem Day
Since the time of King Solomon, the Temple Mount on Mt. Moriah has been the holiest place as the home of the Temple and the Holy of Holies which held the Ark of the Covenant, and the earthly dwelling place of our Lord.
There were many times when the Jewish people were kept from this location, but when the Diaspora happened it started a period of centuries that led to jews being unable to worship anywhere near the Temple Mount, except on on Tisha B’Av which falls on the 9th or 10th day of Av every year and is considered the gadded day of the Jewish calendar as they mourn the loss of the Temples. On this day Jews were allowed to re-enter the city and worship at the western wall. Due to intense mourning that would occur, the wall gained its reputation as “the wailing wall” as a derogatory description.
During the British Mandate and the plan put forth by the UN in 1947, it was decided that Jerusalem was to be an international city and not be solely belonging to either side for a period of ten years. Israel accepted this proposal but the Arab leaders rejected it.
On May 15, 1948 Israel declared independence and the very next day was attacked by its Arab neighbors. All the Jewish residents of East Jerusalem were forced out and no one was able to enter the area or go near the Western wall.
Jordan occupied the Old City until 1967 when frustrations between Jews and Arabs continued to rise. Jewish leaders told Jordan’s King Hussein that they would not make any attacks as long as they too didn’t make any aggressive moves as well. Jordan ended up attacking civilian Israelis. This led to the Six Day War which largely took place in Jerusalem. You can still see bullet holes in the walls of the Old City. On June 7th, 1967, Israel took full control of Jerusalem and were able to approach the Western Wall once again.
It was the first time that Jerusalem had been under Israeli rule in thousands of years.
Today’s Jerusalem Day
This was such a big day in Israeli and Jewish history that it was decided that the day should be commemorated as a minor religious holiday, the “youngest” holiday on the Jewish calendar. This day is celebrated with ceremonies, services and a parade of youth that takes them to the Western Wall. This is also a big day for prayers at the Western Wall, with thankfulness for being able to be in Jerusalem once again.
“This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples’ holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity.”