You’ve all seen it. The ecstatic football player celebrating his triumph in a telegenic victory strut and spin. But that athlete is not only rejoicing in success. His moves are also meant to taunt and demoralize his opponent.
That image is stuck in my mind as we celebrate Jerusalem Day this week. Fifty years have passed since Lt. Gen. Motta Gur proclaimed: ‘Har HaBayit B’Yadeinu’ (‘The Temple Mount is in our hands”).
Let’s celebrate that! Wave the Israeli flag, sing ‘Hatikvah’ from the bottom of your heart, say prayers of thanksgiving. But march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City? No.
Don’t browbeat me with claims that Jews have the right to march through every part of Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day. I know we do. But not every right must be exercised. Not every itch must be scratched. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it. There is wisdom in restraint, in choosing not to do this. And there is more than wisdom. There is decency.
Triumphalism is not the Jewish way. Do we really need such an in-your-face display before Jerusalem’s Arabs? I would like to think not. We are not a broken people any more. We are a strong people with much to celebrate.
The organization Ir Amim is trying to get the Jerusalem Day parade rerouted away from the Muslim Quarter. I hope they succeed. Others are planning alternative celebrations to make Jerusalem Day as inclusive as possible.
Look back to June 7, 1967 for a model of decency in triumph. How did the soldiers and Rabbi Shlomo Goren mark this moment? They stood at the Kotel, in front of the ancient golden stones, singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ and ‘Hatikvah’.
They recited the ‘Shehechiyanu’ prayer and blew the shofar.
Finally, they recited the prayer for fallen soldiers. Thanks to this recording you can close your eyes and imagine yourself standing with them. You can hear the soldiers weeping (4:00) for comrades who gave their lives to save Israel from annihilation. This is how the victors marked the moment.
Only God knows how many Jews have prayed at the Kotel since that historic day. Every time that happens it’s a miracle. This is our triumph. We don’t need to dance in the end zone any more.