Jerusalem Day (Hebrew: יום ירושלים, Yom Yerushalayim) is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War. The day is officially marked by state ceremonies and memorial services.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to mark the regaining of access to the Western Wall.
Under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which proposed the establishment of two states in the British Mandate of Palestine – a Jewish state and an Arab state – Jerusalem was to be an international city, neither exclusively Arab nor Jewish for a period of ten years, at which point a referendum would be held by Jerusalem residents to determine which country to join. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, including the internationalization of Jerusalem, but the Arabs rejected the proposal.
As soon as Israel declared its independence in 1948, it was attacked by its Arab neighbours. Jordan took over East Jerusalem and the Old City. Israeli forces made a concerted attempt to dislodge them, but were unable to do so. By the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War Jerusalem was left divided between Israel and Jordan. The Old City and East Jerusalem continued to be occupied by Jordan, and the Jewish residents were forced out. Under Jordanian rule, half of the Old City's fifty-eight synagogues were demolished and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was plundered for its tombstones, which were used as paving stones and building materials.
This state of affairs changed in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War. Before the start of the war, Israel sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan saying that Israel would not attack Jerusalem or the West Bank as long as the Jordanian front remained quiet. Urged by Egyptian pressure and based on deceptive intelligence reports, Jordan began shelling civilian locations in Israel to which Israel responded on June 6 by opening the eastern front. The following day, June 7, 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem.
Later that day, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared what is often quoted during Yom Yerushalayim:
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.
The war ended with a ceasefire on June 11, 1967.
On May 12, 1968, the government proclaimed a new holiday – Jerusalem Day – to be celebrated on the 28th of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the divided city of Jerusalem became one. On March 23, 1998, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Day Law, making the day a national holiday.
One of the themes of Jerusalem Day, based on a verse from the Book of Psalms, is "Ke'ir shechubra lah yachdav"—"Built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together" (Psalm 122:3).
In 1977, the government advanced the date of Jerusalem Day by a week to avoid it clashing with Election Day.
Logo of 40th anniversary celebrations, Jaffa Gate
The slogan for Jerusalem Day 2007, celebrated on May 16, marking the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, was "Mashehu Meyuhad leKol Ehad" (Hebrew: משהו מיוחד לכל אחד, Something Special for Everyone), punning on the words "meyuhad" (special) and "me'uhad" (united). To mark the anniversary, the approach to Jerusalem on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was illuminated with decorative blue lighting which remained in place throughout the year.
In 2015, Yad Sarah a non-profit volunteer organization began organizing a special tour specifically for residents who use wheelchairs, which focuses on Jerusalem history.
The Yakir Yerushalayim (Hebrew: יַקִּיר יְרוּשָׁלַיִם; English: Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) prize is awarded annually by the Jerusalem municipality on Jerusalem day.
50th anniversary Jerusalem Day 50 logo
In 2017, the jubilee year of Jerusalem Day was celebrated. During the course of the year many events marking this milestone took place in celebrations of the 50th Jerusalem Day.
Many events were planned throughout the year, marking the jubilee. The main theme of the celebrations is the "Liberation of Jerusalem". The celebrations began during Hanukkah 2016, at an official ceremony held at the City of David National Park in the presence of Minister Miri Regev, who is responsible for the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary.
A logo was created for the jubilee and presented by the minister Miri Regev.
Events During the Jubilee Year
The ceremony was held at the City of David National Park at the event the ancient "Pilgrims' Route", that led from the City of David to the Temple Mount during the Second Temple period, was unveiled. The ceremony was attended by Knesset members, mayors and the three paratroopers that were photographed by David Rubinger at the Western Wall in 1967. At the event the Minister Miri Regev was quoted by the press as saying, "Mr. President Barack Obama, I am standing here, on Hanukka, on the same road on which my forefathers walked 2,000 years ago ... No resolution in any international forum is as strong as the steadfast stones on this street." Noting several of the 14 countries that participated in the resolution – including New Zealand, Ukraine, Senegal, and Malaysia – the minister added that "no other people in the world has such a connection and link to their land."
While the day is not widely celebrated outside Israel, and has lost its significance for most secular Israelis, the day is still very much celebrated by Israel's Religious Zionist community with parades and additional prayers in the synagogue.
Religious Zionists recite special holiday prayers with Hallel. Although Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was reluctant to authorise its inclusion in the liturgy, other scholars, namely Meshulam Roth and others who held positions in the Israeli rabbinate, advocated the reciting of Hallel with its blessings, regarding it as a duty to do so. Today, various communities follow differing practices.
Some Haredim (strictly Orthodox), who do not recognise the religious significance of the State of Israel, do not observe Yom Yerushalayim. Rabbi Moses Feinstein maintained that adding holidays to the Jewish calendar was itself problematic.
In 2015 Koren Publishers Jerusalem published a machzor dedicated to observance of Jerusalem Day and Yom Haatzmaut.
Support and opposition
On Jerusalem Day (1992), the Jerusalem Convention was signed, declaring the State of Israel's loyalty to the city.
On Yom Yerushalayim 5755 (1995) at the Ammunition Hill ceremony, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the chief of staff in the Six-Day War, expressed his allegiance to a unified Jerusalem, in a statement that came in response to the Right's claims that the Oslo plan would divide Jerusalem and build Highway 1 The seam line and between East and West Jerusalem, is in effect a declaration of the government's intention to set the border there.
Some elements of the left and of the Arab public in the State of Israel regard Jerusalem Day as a day marking the conquest of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, with the power involved in their opinion. In 2014, the Meretz faction submitted a bill to repeal the Jerusalem Day Law.
There has been controversy pertaining to the celebration of Jerusalem Day. Among the left wing and the Arab population of Jerusalem there are questions of the settlement of eastern Jerusalem and the claim of Jerusalem as a capitals for the State of Israel. One of the celebrations marking Jerusalem Day if the youth parade with flags – known as Rikud Hadegalim (translated as "Dance of the flags") begins at Gan Sacher, winds through the streets of downtown Jerusalem, threads through the old city and ends with a gathering for a final prayer at the Western Wall. The strain of controversy has been felt during the Jerusalem day parade. violent interactions have been reported between Arabs and Israeli youth during.
In May 2015, High Court of Justice rejected a petition to keep the Jerusalem Day parade from marching through the Muslim sector of the city. The justices said, however, that police must arrest parade participants who shout racist and violent epithets such as "Death to the Arabs!" or commit violent acts.
Ethiopian Jews' Memorial Day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the ceremony in Jerusalem alongside the Priests of Beta Israel, 1998
A ceremony is held on Yom Yerushalayim to commemorate the Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Eretz Israel. In 2004, the Israeli government decided to turn this ceremony into a state ceremony held at the memorial site for Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel on Mount Herzl.