Yom Yerushalayim or Jerusalem Day is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and
the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War. The day is officially
marked by state ceremonies and memorial services. This year, Yom Yerushalayim is celebrated on 10 May 2021.
Under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, Jerusalem was to be an international city, neither exclusively
Arab nor Jewish for a period of ten years, at which point a referendum would be held by Jerusalem residents to determine
which country to join. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, including the internationalization of Jerusalem, but the
Arabs rejected the proposal.
On 15 May 1948, the day after Israel declared its independence, it was attacked by its Arab neighbors. Jordan seized East
Jerusalem and the Old City. Israeli forces made a concerted attempt to dislodge them, but were unable to do so. By the end
of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Jerusalem was left divided between Israel and Jordan. The Old City and East Jerusalem continued
to be occupied by Jordan, and the Jewish residents were forced out. Under Jordanian rule, half of the Old City's fifty-eight
synagogues were demolished.
This state of affairs changed in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War. On 7 June 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), Israel captured the Old
City of Jerusalem. On 12 May 1968, the government proclaimed a new holiday – Jerusalem Day – to be celebrated on the 28th of
Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the divided city of Jerusalem became one. On 23 March 1998, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem
Day Law, making the day a national holiday. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to
mark the regaining of access to the Western Wall.
The observance of Yom Yerushalayim outside of the city cannot compare to its celebration in reunited Jerusalem. In Jerusalem,
in normal years, thousands of people march around the city and walk through the liberated Old City. The march ends at the
Kotel (Western Wall) of the Temple Mount - Judaism's holiest site. Once everyone gets to the Kotel, there are speeches and
concerts and celebratory dancing.
Jerusalem has united Jews everywhere since the time of King David. Jerusalem sustained us through 1,900 years of exile. And
Jerusalem is a particularly transcendent city. It has mystical qualities that Washington, D.C., Ottawa and London
Jerusalem has been the Jews’ capital — and rallying cry — for 3,000 years. It’s never been just a place. It’s always been a
poem, a prayer and our ultimate peoplehood platform. In 1967, heroic Israeli soldiers reunified the city — winning a defensive
war after Israel warned Jordan not to attack. The Jewish world united ecstatically.
In 1967, when Jews worldwide sang Naomi Shemer’s love song to “Jerusalem of Gold,” you felt the city’s broad appeal. Secular
Zionists toasted Jerusalem’s historical, mystical power. Religious Zionist Israel toasted the historical and religious power.
They united in their love of the city, which, like most loves, overlapped without being identical.
Today, Jerusalem magically mixes Kotel and Knesset, old and new, secular and sacred, East and West. To the east, muezzins
chant, rabbis pray, mystics meditate, artists paint, vagrants beg, tourists gape and merchants haggle; while to the west,
rock stars perform, politicians posture, scholars study, “startup-ers” program, pedestrians jaywalk and entrepreneurs
And in the blessed middle — Arabs and Jews, religious and nonreligious — put politics aside to help and heal in Hadassah
Hospital’s Planet Medicine, or to huff and puff in the YMCA’s Republic of Sport, or to shop and spend in Jerusalem’s
Jewish holidays without rituals are like people without homelands: They get fuzzy, abstracted, distorted and quickly forgotten.
That’s why every Jew — and every Jerusalem lover — should celebrate Jerusalem Day with special rituals. One possible ritual -
crying out “Next year in Jerusalem!” looks forward. Especially at this coronavirus moment, it’s not a call to our travel agent
(yet) but a hopeful call for better days, for a more perfect union among our people — and among all people.
Finally, especially amid today’s toxic partisanship, when we all sing “Jerusalem of Gold,” we acknowledge differences while
celebrating our bonds. We’ll salute Jerusalem’s different faces over the ages; 1967’s redemptive moment of liberation after
the Arab threats of annihilation; and Jerusalem today, a first-class, modern metropolis that’s still our ancient identity
oasis, our archaeological tell, our communal well, our eternal old-new foundation stone.