For many Jews, Jerusalem Day is even more important than Israel’s Independence Day. Yom Yerushalayim, as it is called in Hebrew, commemorates the day that the entire city of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall, was reunited under Jewish sovereignty in the 1967 Six Day War. Many religious Zionists consider this event an even greater miracle than the rebirth of the State of Israel. Jews had prayed without ceasing for this miracle since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans almost 2,000 years earlier.
During Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Jordanian forces took control of East Jerusalem. The entire Old City was captured, and for nearly 20 years Jews were not allowed access to their most holy site, the Kotel (Western Wall).
Then on June 5, 1967, the Six Day War broke out. Despite Israel’s pleas to the Jordanian king to stay out of the war, Jordanian forces soon began advancing on Israel’s territory. After two days of fighting, Israeli paratroopers pushed back Jordan’s army and were given the order to recapture East Jerusalem.
The young Israeli soldiers who reached the Western Wall for the first time in their lives stopped to thank God as their rabbi blew a shofar in celebration. Since that day, Israel has protected the right of all religions to freely visit and worship at their holy sites.
Jerusalem Day is now celebrated each year on the anniversary of its liberation, the 28th of Iyar according to the Jewish calendar. Official ceremonies are held to memorialize the soldiers who gave their lives for the dream of unifying Jerusalem, and special prayer services are conducted in synagogues throughout the country. Thousands of Israelis celebrate with a joyous march, dancing with flags through the Old City until they reach the Kotel.
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