Jerusalem Day, or more accurately Jerusalem Reunification Day is a holiday for aficionados. Maybe at City Hall they think they know how to celebrate with a large concert for students and by dancing with Israeli flags down Jerusalem Streets, but the real celebration will be in places like Shiloh, Hebron, Bet El and Alon Moreh. For just as there are two Jerusalems, one of the physical and one of the spiritual, so there are two Jerusalem Days. There are the physical signs of celebration and there are the spiritual ones. Celebrations of body, and celebrations of the Redemption of the spirit.
As years have passed, it seems that the joy of Jerusalem Day has diminished from large segments of the Israeli polity until some see the day as a holiday for only certain Jews with certain views. Mention the “rikudaglim” or “dancing with the flag” and immediately the image perceived will of boys with tzizit (fringes) flying, of bearded men with knitted kipot (yarmulkes) and white shirts, and young girls in long skirts. City Hall and the Ministry of Education, sensing the pulse, will add other activities in order to broaden the appeal to others. Large concerts, tours of school children and “white nights” of partying will draw thronging crowds, but by ignoring, blurring and belittling the greatness of the historical event we condemn the day to a shallowness undeserving of its merit.
Where the national religious Jews live, Jerusalem Day is a time of prayer and praise, where people gather for festive singing of a full Hallel both night and day, as we do for the first day of Passover. Indeed Independence Day and Jerusalem Day are days where we remember and celebrate our redemption from danger and persecution to freedom and independence. In Shiloh, as in other places in Judea and Shomron, Jerusalem Day has the added significance of being the anniversary of our return to a vital part of the Jewish People’s inheritance.
Perhaps that is the difference between the Right and the Left in Israel. While the Right sees the Six Day War as a miracle accompanied by a blessing, the Left (or parts of it) sees the war as an accident burdened with a curse. The Left’s discomfort “ruling” over the Arab population living in Judea and Shomron has led it to the conclusion that Israel should just abandon the area. Like the Spies that Moshe sent to scour the Land of Israel, they have decided that the task of keeping Judea and Shomron is too formidable and have resorted to slandering the Land and it’s (Jewish) inhabitants in order to achieve their goal. The Conquest of the Land, is portrayed as a brazen theft by rapacious and zealous fanatics and the Occupation is equated to the Nazi occupation in Europe. The settlers themselves are no better than criminals excluding those too dim-witted to understand the malefeasance of crossing lines of morality and geography imperceptible to them.
For my part, I will continue to see the heartland of Judaism as a gift and a blessing. The Six Day War not only freed Israel from the unworkable, insecure armistice lines from 1949 and removed the threat of Jordanian artillery from Jerusalem , Netanya , Afula and Beit Shean, it liberated something in the Jewish People themselves. The Six Day War showed and the Yom Kippur War ultimately proved that Israel is resilient to even the combined force of all her neighbors. By standing on our own, with G-d’s grace, we redeemed ourselves of the image as wards of pontiffs, princes and presidents and earned the grudging respect from even our fiercest detractors. Love us they may not, but cross us they do at their own risk.
Beyond the war and its outcome, I see Judea and Shomron as first and foremost as my home and my heritage. Shiloh is where the Tabernacle once stood, the home of Shmuel the Prophet, Chana and her prayers and Eli the Cohen. The hills, once barren, are now covered with vineyards, and vibrant communities are spread around me. Perhaps forty seven has no significance as a number, but the cumulative effect is still apparent. Children born in Shiloh when it was established are now parents themselves and their children will soon be parents too soon enough. From year to year we grow in strength and in numbers.
Now is the time of Redemption. Now is the time to redeem words from their false connotations, to free terms from the lies that encumber them. The settlers in Judea and Shomron are not the French colonialists in Vietnam, the “Occupation” is not like the German occupation of France and the land “conquered” in 1967 was taken in self defence from a country that had no claim to the land. Now is the time to redeem ourselves from the need of approval from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem or the Mufti of Jerusalem, both Jew hating clerics of the worse type. Nor should we wait for a papal grace or a presidential pardon for protecting our own interests. President Obama or the Pope know that their words change nothing one way or the other. Whether we thrive or survive are dependent on our own skills and the grace of G-d and not what is said in the Vatican or the White House. Time to proudly declare that we have returned to our land and that we are here to stay. And it is time to act on that declaration.
This Jerusalem Day I will remember the sacrifice of those who fought so we could be secure and of those who dedicate each day to improving our country. I will thank G-d for the opportunity given our generation to live in the Land promised to Our People, the G-d Who redeemed His Promise and redeemed His People.