Moshe Dayan: “Yesterday I was not a religious man, and tomorrow I will not be, but today there is no one more religious than me!”
Jerusalem Day is a miraculous national holiday, the purest, clearest moment of God’s ongoing, albeit usually more subtle, intervention in modern Jewish and world history.
Jerusalem was not meant to be liberated when Arab armies began attacking Israel on June 5th 1967. Lt. General Mota Gur had clear instructions not to recapture the half of Jerusalem we had to abandon in 1948, a fact which depressed him, he told then Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to King Hussein that he would not attack Jordanian posts unless they attacked first. Which they did, after Jordanian radar picked up the cluster of Israeli planes returning from destroying the Egyptian air force, but the Egyptians convinced Hussein that the planes were theirs, and that he should join the attack on Western Jerusalem.
Had Jordan not attacked, Jerusalem would have remained divided.
During the course of 6 days, before which Israel feared annihilation, we regained Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Hevron, the Shomron and the Golan Heights.
Jerusalem – Yerushalayim – is not just a place. It is a concept. It is an emotion. It’s an expression of longing for a better world for over two thousand years.
During the four days I spent in Sinai this week, I stood facing north each morning with the Reeds Sea to my right for the Shaharit prayer, the same way Jewish hearts around the world turn towards Jerusalem as they pray each day.
Jerusalem is blamed for causing divisiveness in this upside down world of ours, but the opposite is true.
Jerusalem is the city that will resolve our external differences and ultimately bring the world together.
“ירושלים הבנויה כעיר שחוברה לה יחדו” (תהילים קכ”ב)
“Rabbi Yohanan said: God said – ‘I will not enter heavenly Jerusalem (ירושלים של מעלה) until I find my place in earthly Jerusalem (ירושלים של מטה).’ Is there really a Heavenly Jerusalem? Yes…the rebuilt Jerusalem, like a city unified together.” (Tractate Taanit, page 5)
Jerusalem is the reason we all made Aliyah. Why we longed for and returned to Zion, miraculously, in our day, something our great grandparents only dreamed of.
With an open heart, it is hard not to feel the eternal, hopeful, optimistic pull of Jerusalem. Jews of all stripes will dance there today, because we all “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and love her equally.
Moshe Dayan may have recognized the spiritual implications and returned the key to the Temple Mount almost immediately, and perhaps we were not ready then for the light and responsibility of resuming sovereignty then, but the Temple Mount is Jerusalem’s beating heart.
Our hesitation to acknowledge this, and to ensure freedom of religious expression for Jews and all nations there, is a sign that we are still in process.
Our eyes must look towards her, upwards and inwards, as we rebuild our earthly and heavenly capital city by continuing to evolve as a nation, refreshing our connections to the heritage and history that bond us together.
Jerusalem is the light of the world, says the Midrash, and we reflect that light, through our joy in her and the ultimate unity and peace that she stands for.
ירו-שלם – City of Wholeness and Peace.
Happy Jerusalem Day!