Israel is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, its eternal capital.
Festivities are being held throughout the week in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital.
After Israel declared its independence in 1948, the fledgling Jewish state was attacked by neighboring Arab countries, including Jordan, which captured the eastern part of Jerusalem. The Jewish residents of the Old City were forced out.
The Jordanian occupiers destroyed 58 synagogues and plundered the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives for its tombstones, which were used as paving stones and building materials.
On June 7, 1967, three days into the Six Day War, Israeli forces liberated the Old City of Jerusalem and reunified the city.
Then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared: “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.”
“Fifty years ago, we returned to the heart of our capital and our country, and 50 years ago we did not conquer it, rather we liberated it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated at a special ceremony kicking off the weeklong celebrations on Sunday.
“With the heroism of our fighters and the pride of our people, Jerusalem has once again been united, and therefore I say today to the world, in a clear and unequivocal voice that Jerusalem has always been and will always be the capital of Israel,” he affirmed.
Many Ways to Celebrate
In 1968, the Israeli government proclaimed a new holiday—Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim—to be celebrated on the 28th of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the divided city of Jerusalem was reunified, this year coinciding with Tuesday evening and Wednesday.
Yom Yerushalayim includes a range of celebratory events. Some are spiritual and include the recitation of Hallel, a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, in synagogues.
Israelis from all walks of life join in street parades and concerts held throughout the capital, most notably the Rikud Degalim, the flag dance, during which thousands march with Israeli flags from the new city center to the Kotel, the Western Wall, in the heart of Old City.
The mayor of Jerusalem holds a celebratory reception at City Hall, and state ceremonies and memorial services are held for those who died in the Six Day War.
The state also holds a special memorial for the Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia who walked to Israel, as many died on the way with the hope of seeing the holy city of Jerusalem.
This year’s celebrations are of special significance due to the landmark jubilee celebrations.