Though officially, Jerusalem Day ended hours ago, I’ve been thinking of it all through the daylight hours today.
In Hebrew, it’s called Yom Shichrur Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Liberation Day (rather than Reunification Day, which many people use). I like the word “liberation” and its meaning. Yes, Jerusalem was reunified as a result of the Six-Day War, but Jerusalem (and the rest of Judea and Samaria) were actually liberated, meaning that free access to holy sites was restored (at least until the self-delusion of Oslo), free passage was made possible between Israel and these places and with it, increased opportunity for development and improvement of quality of life.
Of course, many of us believe that this liberation didn’t go far enough; these lands weren’t annexed, and in the corrupt, incompetent hands of what would one day style itself the Palestinian Authority, freedom has been severely limited. (The Jewish areas, under the control of a politically liberal Defense Ministry, have also been choked off, especially of late, from realizing their potential due in part to a dogged insistence that these lands must remain in escrow for a twenty-third Arab state.) The Arabs here are not much freer under their current government than they were under the neglectful thumb of Jordan. Had Israel chosen to annex these lands and enfranchised part or all of their inhabitants, history might have been quite different, both for Jews and Arabs.
But even this partial liberation has made its indelible mark on the Jewish psyche. We are no longer living in a Jerusalem that is not really Jerusalem. Our Jerusalem, that we built and rebuilt and rebuilt again is in our hands. We are free to live in any part of it, including those parts which were once Jewish, but over time were overrun by Arabs. We are free to excavate and explore our history there, uncovering archeological evidence which confirms our presence and sovereignty there dating back 3000 years. We are free to visit its historical and holy sites, to restore them and provide access to them for tourists, pilgrims of all faiths, and residents alike.
Madmen talk of redividing the city, of awarding half of it (including the Old City, which never saw an Arab before the seventh century) to terrorist organizations committed to Israel’s destruction, in which to build the capital of their new Islamist state. Such madmen, though, underestimate the bond between the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem. They haven’t prayed for 2000 years for a return to Jerusalem. They haven’t asked God every day to bless this city, or prayed for its rebuilding. They don’t see it mentioned over 600 times in their holy books. In short, because it isn’t theirs, they can talk of dividing it, Solomon-style, between the two peoples who claim it. The difference, of course, between the Solomon story and contemporary Jerusalem is that the baby was in Solomon’s hands when he suggested cutting it in half. With Jerusalem, it’s in our hands. We are the rightful heirs to it, and we’re not about to let it go.
As God’s hand was clearly behind our liberation of Jerusalem and the rest of Israel (as beautifully documented in Jameel’s post for today), so may it continue to be as others try to take it from us.