When the smoke from Israel’s war of independence cleared in 1948, there was no doubt about the miraculous outcome. Against all odds, Israel had not only survived, but managed to declare and establish their own state! Who would have thought? Of course the prophet Isaiah knew, when he said:
“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children.” (Isaiah 66:8)
Even with the undeniable miracle of the birth of Israel, there was still a cloud that hung over the country. There were pieces of the holy land that were not in Jewish hands. These were not just any pieces either. The very heartland of Israel – East Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria – lay captive in the hands of Jordan.
A good friend of ours, Yossi, who is a tour guide in Samaria, tells his story in an episode of Season 2 of the Joshua and Caleb Report. His parents moved to Israel from Tunisia in 1947, just before Israel was founded as a state. After the war was over, his father found a house along the border of the no man’s land, an area in Jerusalem that lay along the armistice line between Israel and Jordan. Growing up, he and his family knew that in certain parts of the house they had to duck to avoid being shot at by Jordanian soldiers.
It was here that Yossi was born and spent his first twelve years of life.
Nineteen years after independence, Israel was attacked and again faced overwhelming odds. In an even greater miracle than the war of 1948, however, God intervened, and not only did Israel again survive, but they liberated Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, as well as the Golan Heights, Sinai Peninsula, and the Gaza Strip!
Even though Yossi didn’t realize the significance at the time, he was one of the first Jewish boys to have his bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in 1967, just a few months after liberation!
If you have been to the Western Wall, you know that today it is a large, open-air plaza, where tens of thousands of people can gather at one time. However, this was not the case in 1967.
Imagine that you were Yossi in August of 1967, headed to the Western Wall for your bar mitzvah just a few short months after the war. After navigating the crowded streets of the Old City, you would have arrived at an overgrown area adjacent to the Wall. Just opposite the Wall – only feet away – are old homes, occupied by the Arabs before the liberation. If you were Yossi, you would not have realized how incredibly significant it was to have your bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, until much later in your life.
Today, every Monday and Thursday, bar mitzvahs are held at the Western Wall. If you happen to be there on the right day, make sure to watch for the jubilant families that accompany Jewish boys from all over the world as they celebrate their coming of age. They blast shofars, play drums, sing, dance, and celebrate their Jewish identity, privileged to be in Jerusalem once again.
This year, the celebrations for Yom Yerushalayim will look a bit different, but they will still be jubilant nonetheless.
A new event that will be taking place this year will be a vehicle convoy that will start at Teddy Stadium, drive through the New City, pass the Knesset, and drive around the Old City gates to the Western Wall.The convoy will include vehicles playing music over loudspeakers and they will all be decorated with Israeli flags.
Another event will be a human chain, which is meant to symbolically embrace Jerusalem. The chain will include hundreds of celebrants who will start from Tzahal Square (outside Jaffa Gate), and circumvent most of the Old City, including the Damascus Gate. All of the participants will have flags, all the while observing social distancing guidelines. Some celebrants will even be waving flags from the walls of the Old City.
At the same time, music trucks will travel around the city with loudspeakers and screens and will distribute flags, helping to entertain Jerusalem’s residents, including them in all of the celebrations. In the evening, a major event will be held at the Western Wall plaza, attended by about 450 people.
Organizers say they anticipate much joy and unity. The events this year are a bit unique due to the coronavirus, but everyone is still invited to take part and experience the joy and unity of Jerusalem.
How will you be celebrating Jerusalem Day this year? If you’re celebrating in your home, anywhere in the world, will you let us know?
We would love it if you would snap a photo of yourself celebrating Jerusalem Day and post it to Facebook! If you do, be sure to tag #jerusalemday2020 and #hayovelisrael!
However you are celebrating, we’d love to hear about it!
“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand cease to function. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem as my greatest joy!” (Psalm 137:5-6)
Happy Jerusalem Day!