Fifty-four years ago today, Jerusalem was liberated and reunited. The war was short, only six days, but the longing for Jerusalem had lasted for centuries. Rabbi Yehuda Halevi lived in Medieval Spain but wrote that his heart was in Jerusalem. A thousand years later, when Shai Agnon received the Nobel Prize, he told the world that although he was born in the Diaspora, he always felt as if he had been born in Jerusalem. Natan Sharansky was tried and sent to prison for many years but declared to the trial judges: “Next year in Jerusalem!” And every time a couple marries, in any place throughout the world, in every generation, the words “If I forget thee Jerusalem…” are heard.
Yoram Zamosh, one of the paratroopers who liberated the Kotel, described how during the fighting his unit reached the house of the Cohen family living at 10 HaKerem Street in Jerusalem. An old grandmother suddenly stuffed an Israeli flag into his satchel and said excitedly: “This is our flag. Ever since we were kicked out of our house in the Old City (by the Jordanians during the War of Independence in 1948), I have been keeping it. Boys, the Jewish people are pushing you with their last ounce of strength — that you should safely reach the Old City and wave this flag.” And so it happened.
It’s true that the situation in Jerusalem at this moment is not perfect. Far from it. But if there is something that all of history teaches us about this city it’s the value of patience. Jerusalem has known far more difficult days. Against the background of the current unrest, it’s worth taking a look back at events throughout history to keep things in proper perspective: the First Temple and its destruction followed by the Babylonian exile; the Second Temple with its defilement by the Greeks and destruction by the Romans; the presence in Jerusalem of Byzantines, Muslims, Crusaders, Mamluks, Turks, British and now us. How privileged we are to be here; our generation is the one to finally witness the rebirth and rebuilding of Jerusalem. We received a gift and it is up to us to show we are deserving of it.
All the beautiful prophecies that were written about Jerusalem and about us have begun to materialize before our eyes, but we still have a distance to go and work to do until they are fully realized. Jerusalem is the combination of two words: re’ou (see) and shalem (what is perfect). See perfection. Ultimately, it will happen. The prophecy that began with the patriarch Abraham and continued with King David will come to pass, even soon. Jerusalem will become the world capital of justice, peace and faith.
Translation from the Hebrew by Yehoshua Siskin.