On Sunday, June 5th (Hebrew Date 28th of Iyar) we celebrate one the most miraculous and powerful moments in the Jewish story; namely the reclaiming of Jerusalem after nearly 2000 years. This day is known in Hebrew as “Yom Yerushalayim,” or “Jerusalem Day.” Perhaps never since the Purim story, had there been such an open manifestation of the Hand of God in the triumph of Jewish History. I remember years ago hearing from a soldier who was slightly injured during the Six Day War how a Christian Minister was going around to all of the wounded soldiers in the Hospital asking each of them for a blessing, saying “It is clear to me that God is with you, and that you are God’s chosen. It is certain that the Redemption is now near.”
For one moment, let us be transported back to those miraculous six days, and the harrowing days before it. Abdel Nasser of Egypt had signed an allegiance with Syria and Jordan, amassed much of his army along the Sinai border, and famously declared that “The Zionist Entity will be driven into the sea once and for all.” The Israeli army was badly outnumbered and outgunned as well as cowering under the massive air superiority of the mighty Egyptian Air Force. To many, this looked like this would be the continuation of the Final Solution, occurring ironically, in the Jewish Homeland itself. National parks were declared to soon become gravesites for the many that were expected to die during the upcoming war. The Land that Herzl dreamed and Ben-Gurion built would be no more. The Ttny Jewish State would become a 19-year façade that would soon fade from memory.
And yet, just as in the Purim story, God had other plans. The miracles that occurred during those extraordinary six days were numerous and well-documented. Nearly the entire Egyptian Air Force is destroyed on the ground by the Israeli Air Force, in a surprise early morning preemptive strike. It was reported that nearly every missile fired from the Israeli warplanes hit their intended target; a feat which was never able to be done in any of the practice simulations. Anti-aircraft missiles that could have been used against Israel, but inexplicably weren’t. Radio signals from Jordan and Egypt that either were sent either too late or sent incorrectly. Enemy bombs that failed to detonate. And then there was chaos among the normally organized enemy armies that led to massive casualties. There were reports of battles that clearly, logically favored the enemy, and were inexplicably won by Israel. The list goes on and on, way too numerous for this one short article.
And so, it was, on that Hebrew date of the 28th of Iyar, in June, 1967, the Jewish People received a great gift. “Har Habayit Beyadenu!” were the words that were declared; “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” Jerusalem, with its most prized possessions; namely the Old City and the Western Wall, were once again in Jewish hands. The verse in Song of Songs declares (2:4) “Behold! He Stands behind our Wall.” The Midrash written at least 1500 years ago explains that this is a reference to the Western Wall of the Temple, for God has promised that for it will never fall. And indeed, it never had.
Jerusalem, its significance and its mystical power has always been a cornerstone of the Jewish Faith. Three times a day in our prayers we ask God to complete the rebuilding of Jerusalem. At the end of Yom Kippur when we go from a state of impurity to purity, we take that powerful moment to sing “Next year in Jerusalem rebuilt.” And at the end of the Seder night on Passover when we go from a state of slavery to freedom, once again we turn this powerful moment into a yearning for Jerusalem as we sing again “Next year in Jerusalem rebuilt.” The list continues, once again, way too short, for this one article.
Let us take out a moment and appreciate the awesomeness of this day. Let us learn to see and appreciate the beauty that is Jerusalem. Let us see and appreciate God’s ever-present Hand in our destiny. And indeed, let us sing and pray “Next year, in Jerusalem rebuilt.”