Tag: Jerusalem Day


Trump’s Vision of Peace: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2017 — Maybe US President Donald Trump really believes that, given recent developments in the region, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible.

Can Trump’s Outside-In Formula Work?: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, May 22, 2017— Much of the attention being given to President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East has focused on whether his first foreign trip will provide much of a distraction from his growing domestic troubles.

Re-Liberating Jerusalem: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, May 15, 2015 — It's been almost 50 years since Israel unified Jerusalem and turned it from a dusty and depressed backwater into a truly radiant international capital city sparkling with energy and creativity.

Preparing For War: Jerusalem, 1967: Abraham Rabinovich, Jewish Press, May 19, 2017— As tensions mounted in late May, 1967, Jerusalem was pervaded by a feeling that if war came it would be a bloody block-by-block battle in which no quarter would be given.


On Topic Links


Full Text & Video: US President Donald Trump’s Address in Riyadh at Arab Islamic American Summit : Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, May 21, 2017

Trump Rebukes Abbas and the Palestinian Authority During Bethlehem Visit :  Jewish Press, May 23, 2017

Trump Can Break the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse: A.J. Caschetta, Gatestone Institute, May 22, 2017

Israel Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem: JCPA, 2017





Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2017


Maybe US President Donald Trump really believes that, given recent developments in the region, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible. Maybe he sees a successful conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a necessary preamble to economic cooperation and resurgence in the region led by the US. Maybe he sees it as a personal challenge – the ultimate deal.


Whatever the reason, US President Donald Trump is remarkably focused on the goal of bringing together Israelis and Palestinians and resolving once and for all a conflict that has received the attention of every US president in recent history. And when Trump talks of peace he is taken seriously. When Barack Obama or John Kerry invested time, energy and clout in bringing together Israelis and Palestinians they were said to be naive, messianic and dangerous to Israel’s security. Yet, when the same optimism is expressed by Trump, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Palestinians and Israel keep an open mind.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun using “peace” again, a word which tends to elicit cynicism on the Right due to the bad track-record of peace initiatives. If peace is mentioned at all these days it is normally in conjunction with “security.” Yet during a meeting with Trump in Jerusalem on Monday night, Netanyahu said, “I also look forward to working closely with you to advance peace in our region… The Arab leaders who you met yesterday could help change the atmosphere and they could help create the conditions for a realistic peace.”


Trump seems to have been impressed by his meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia and their willingness to engage with Israel. But unlike Netanyahu who envisions peace with the Palestinians as an extension of improved relations with the Arab nations of the region, Trump and the Arab leaders he met in Riyadh view resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian as a precursor to better ties between the Jewish state and the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan will not facilitate an atmosphere more conducive to peace between Israel and the Palestinians by improving ties with the Jewish state. Rather, open relations between Israel and “moderate” Sunni states will be conditional upon headway in peace talks with the Palestinians.


For its part, Israel has agreed to make some confidence building gestures. Trump asked for, and received, a promise from Israel that it would slow down building in Judea and Samaria. On Sunday, the security cabinet voted in favor of a package of steps that included easing travel restrictions for Palestinians on Allenby Bridge which connects the West Bank to Jordan, the development of two new job-producing industrial zones, and new allowances for Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control.


Trump has called on the Palestinian Authority to stop incitement against Israel. He also criticized Palestinian funding of imprisoned terrorists. Speaking alongside PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Trump condemned the terrorist attack in Manchester that killed 22 and left dozens injured. Trump noted that “peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.” This was a clear reference to Palestinian society’s glorification of terrorists who murder Israelis and the PA ’s funding of the families of “martyrs” who died carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel or prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails for terrorist activities.


As Trump takes leave of the region and heads to Italy, his major contribution to the peace process so far has been his successful resuscitation of non-cynical discourse on the prospects of peace. But the truly hard work has barely begun. Will Palestinian leaders take Trump’s advice and stop glorifying terrorists? Can Israel make additional gestures that would make Palestinians’ lives easier? If there is goodwill on both sides, perhaps Trump’s self-confidence and optimism are not so misplaced after all.






Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, May 22, 2017


Much of the attention being given to President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East has focused on whether his first foreign trip will provide much of a distraction from his growing domestic troubles. But the real substance centers on his plan to solve a problem that has eluded all of his predecessors: the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The key to Trump’s foray is an effort to forge an “outside-in” breakthrough, in which bilateral talks will be shelved in favor of an attempt to use the leverage of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab nations over the Palestinians to forge a pact with Israel. But the problem is that, like other peace plans, it seeks to finesse the main obstacle to peace rather than to confront it. As long as Palestinian national identity is inextricably linked to their war on Zionism, this effort will fail as miserably as its predecessors.


Though Israel is often portrayed in the press as isolated, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has actually made substantial progress in its outreach efforts. The most remarkable diplomatic breakthrough involves some of Israel’s most bitter Arab foes, such as Saudi Arabia, becoming tacit allies. Netanyahu doesn’t deserve credit for this since the Saudis have been looking for a way out of the dead-end conflict with Israel for years and were pushed into the arms of the Israelis by President Barack Obama’s efforts to appease Iran. But however favorably Arab governments have come to view Israel, their populations are still being raised on antisemitic incitement against Jews. They can’t formalize their ties with Israel so long as the Palestinians still seek the Jewish state’s destruction to the cheers of the Arab street.


That’s why many serious people believe the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians can supply the diplomatic muscle to finally push the Palestinians to take yes for an answer and end the conflict. Since it is clearly in the interests of these nations to remove the one barrier to better relations with a Jewish state that they view as a security and economic partner, they hope to convince the Palestinians that peace with Israel will be beneficial for them too. That’s a logical concept, but if common sense determined the course of Middle East history, the Arabs would have embraced the Jewish state decades ago.


Still, Trump’s effort is not based entirely on the delusions that led Obama to believe pressure on Israel would convince the Palestinians to meet him halfway. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Saudis and other Gulf nations are putting forward a scheme in which they would make strides toward normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for Netanyahu enacting a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank and entering talks with the Palestinian Authority.


This is a far cry from the blind faith that some in the US foreign policy establishment have in the idea that the 2002 Saudi peace initiative is a game-changer. In theory, that plan called for complete Arab recognition for Israel in exchange for a complete withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. But what the Arab states are offering may actually be a way for them to sideline the Palestinians and avoid dead-end peace talks rather than to jumpstart them.


The Saudis understand that no matter how much money they give the Palestinians, any negotiation that depends on the Fatah and Hamas movements being willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state and ending the conflict will ultimately founder. Nor are Sunni nations thrilled with the idea of creating yet another unstable Arab state that might fall under the influence of Islamist terrorists and/or the Iranians. What they may really want is not so much the real estate deal of the century that Trump dreams about, but an effort to keep the conflict under control. That’s why the Saudis are asking for a lot less from Israel than the peace processors thought. Like Netanyahu, they may want to manage an unsolvable conflict rather than a pyrrhic quest to end it.


Israel has good reason to do what it can to work with the Saudis. But the idea that the “outside-in” concept will transform Trump into the prince of peace is a pipe dream. Let’s hope the president won’t let his ambition to achieve a deal — one that must await a sea change in Palestinian political culture that is nowhere in sight — get in the way of a less grandiose effort that makes sense.






David M. Weinberg

                                     Israel Hayom, May 15, 2015


It's been almost 50 years since Israel unified Jerusalem and turned it from a dusty and depressed backwater into a truly radiant international capital city sparkling with energy and creativity. There is more to come. The dynamic vision for Jerusalem 2020 in the transportation, cultural, recreational and business fields unveiled this week by Mayor Nir Barkat is exciting and uplifting.


Yet as we approach Jerusalem Liberation Day…hefty question marks hang over the city's future. These uncertainties stem from government hesitations in the face of international and Arab pressure for re-division of the city (Heaven forbid). Instead of acting decisively to buttress Israel's sovereignty, security, economy and social vibrancy in Jerusalem, we have a stalemate in government decision-making. In fact, the threats to Jerusalem as a living, breathing, growing, safe and open city — and to Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and the epicenter of the global Jewish community — come mainly from neglect on Israel's part. The fourth Netanyahu government…must rebuff deleterious foreign pressures, stop dithering and act to re-establish forward motion, Zionist momentum, in Jerusalem. Here's how:


Housing: Except for luxury skyscrapers and fancy villas in central Jerusalem that are purchased by very rich (and mostly foreign) buyers, there is no significant new building underway in the city or its immediate environs for young families. For fear of international censure, the government has shrunk from critically needed expansions of peripheral, middle-class neighborhoods like Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Pisgat Ze'ev, Gilo and Givat Hamatos (all of which are over the stale "Green Line"). No new neighborhoods have been established in the city since Netanyahu's first term in the late 1990s (Har Homa). For the same reason, successive governments going back to Yitzhak Rabin have failed to follow through on plans to build housing in the large E1 quadrant on the eastern slopes of the city (along the road toward Maaleh Adumim).


Netanyahu threatened to build in E1 if the Palestinian Authority sued Israel for war crimes in the International Criminal Court, then failed to follow through on his threat even when the PA launched an ICC assault. But this only highlights the fact that the expansion of Jerusalem eastward, so critical to the viability and livability of the city for the long term, is being held hostage to global politics. Jerusalem also has been boxed into an affordable housing stalemate by environmental lobby groups who want to protect the green mountains to the west of the city, and who have stymied all plans for significant housing projects in this area (adjacent to Tzur Hadassah, Mevasseret Zion and more). Netanyahu's new government must move to break these "settlement" logjams.


Security: Just this week, security services broke up a big terrorist cell operating out of Silwan. But cars and buses traveling to or parking near the Western Wall are regularly stoned, and almost every Jerusalem light rail streetcar has been hit with stones in the north of the city. Travel to the hallowed ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives is extraordinarily risky; Jewish mourners are sure to be assaulted. As a result, almost nobody ventures there. The few, brave bereaved families who do so travel in organized convoys with bullet- and stone-proof windows. There is also frequent Arab vandalism of the graves.


This is, of course, a shameful abdication of Israeli sovereignty and Jewish national dignity. Were such violence against Jews or vandalism against a Jewish cemetery to occur regularly abroad, it would be an international scandal. Even though he was from a "nationalist" political party, the previous public security minister took a light policing approach to the lawlessness in Jerusalem. He and his police brass wanted to avoid incidents that could become major conflagrations and international trouble for Israel. While understandable, this low-profile strategy is no longer sufficient.


Netanyahu's new government must devote much more attention to the re-securing (dare I say, re-liberation) of Jerusalem, by boosting the manpower, resources and authority of the Jerusalem police force, and by renewed enforcement of civil law in the Arab neighborhoods of the city, including building and tax codes, noise pollution bylaws and traffic rules. Some will say that another part of the answer is the devotion of more municipal services and funds to the eastern parts of the city. That's true, but let's face it: The developmental gap is not why the violence is growing. Barkat is indeed advancing Arab neighborhoods of the city, through more money for education and infrastructure.


The Temple Mount: Netanyahu's new government must also redress the gross violations of Israeli sovereignty and Jewish rights implicit in the prevailing situation on the Temple Mount. Jewish visitors to the mount — the very few who are occasionally let in — are systematically accosted by paid professional Islamic provocateurs, while the police stand aside. It goes without saying that the almost five-decade-long ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount outrageously remains in place, lest the Arabs become too angry. And of course, illegal Waqf excavations continue on the Temple Mount without Israeli archaeological supervision. We know that over the past decade the burrowing out by the Waqf of the underground Solomon's Stables has wantonly destroyed thousands of years of Jewish relics and history.


Jewish prayer should be facilitated in some symbolic way on the vast Temple Mount plaza. This can be effected either through a time-sharing arrangement similar to that in place at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, or through a small synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the plaza that will not overshadow the two large Muslim structures on the Mount. Waqf violence should be dealt with compellingly.


The bottom line is that to hold on to a united Jerusalem, Israel needs to act. It must build homes extensively to keep the city alive and young. It must wield a big baton against Arab insurgents and radicals. It must restore its full and active jurisdiction and reassert Jewish national rights in all parts of the city. These initiatives will engender Palestinian (and American) resistance, but with both resoluteness and sensitivity Israel can succeed and overcome the opposition. Jerusalem is still a consensus issue in Israeli society and politics. The new Netanyahu government would enjoy widespread public backing for action to shore up Israel's stake in the holy city.                                                                




Abraham Rabinovich

                      Jewish Press, May 19, 2017


As tensions mounted in late May, 1967, Jerusalem was pervaded by a feeling that if war came it would be a bloody block-by-block battle in which no quarter would be given. Unspoken but widely envisioned was the image of the Warsaw Ghetto; buildings turned to rubble from which the battle would continue. The municipality began to bulldoze a hillside near Mount Herzl to prepare gravesites. The slope chosen was out of sight of the Jordanian lines to prevent a repetition of 1948 when, at funerals of people killed by shelling, the mourners themselves came under fire.


Some officials expected 2,000 dead in Jerusalem. These were the optimists who assumed the Jordanians would not attempt aerial bombardment because of the proximity of Arab neighborhoods. The pessimists, those who believed the Arabs would bomb anyway, estimated 6,000 dead and several times that number in wounded in Jerusalem alone. Events had taken on a momentum of their own beyond either side’s calculation. In the Arab world, rhetoric was whipping passions into white heat. “If you want war,” declared Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in a public challenge, “we are ready for you.”


Israel did not want war. The likely price even for victory was grim. Six thousand Israelis, one in every 100, had died in the victorious War of Independence, a conflict that had seen little air action. When Israel had next gone to war, in the 1956 Sinai campaign, it had been on only one front and in collusion with two powers, England and France. Even so, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had insisted that France station air squadrons in Israel to protect its cities from air strikes.


Now, in 1967, Israel stood alone against what was beginning to look like a broad Arab coalition with three times as many tanks and warplanes as Israel. Moshe Dayan, on the eve of being named defense minister, estimated that there could be tens of thousands dead. “An entire generation of paratroopers and tank crews will be lost,” he told the general heading Israel’s Southern Command, “but you will win.” Despite this dire casualty estimate, the general, Yeshayahu Gavish, found solace in the remarks because Dayan at least predicted victory. Not all national leaders were sure of that. Even IDF chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin was pushed to the edge of nervous collapse by the responsibility that had fallen on him.


In search of reassurance, Rabin called on Ben-Gurion, now retired, for an informal chat. It turned out to be the most traumatic meeting of Rabin’s life. Ben-Gurion was as decisive as Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was hesitant, but his decisiveness lay in warning against going to war without the support of a foreign power. Otherwise, it would be an adventure that risked national disaster, he said, and the responsibility would be Rabin’s. The chief of staff had made a grave mistake, said Ben-Gurion, in ordering mobilization and thereby accelerating the war momentum.


Rabin was shaken by Ben-Gurion’s remarks. His air force commanders were promising dramatic results if Israel struck the first blow. The army commanders likewise expressed confidence in victory. Rabin was not sure the government would permit a first strike, but even if it did he could not be certain that the generals’ predictions would prove realistic when put to the test. Against this uncertainty, Ben-Gurion’s powerful “thou shalt not” was a warning Rabin could not shrug off. Ben-Gurion had proved prophetic in the past. If he was correct now, Rabin could be leading the nation to another Holocaust.


On May 22, Egypt announced the Straits of Tiran would be closed to Israeli shipping from the following day. The closure was a clear casus belli. To let it pass without a military response would be a devastating sign of weakness. Eshkol told a ministerial meeting the following day that Washington had asked Israel not to attempt to send a ship through the straits while the U.S. attempted to resolve the matter by diplomatic means. In the mood of indecision that prevailed, the American request offered a welcome respite. Rabin was subdued during the meeting with the ministers. He chain-smoked and his face was taut. In the evening, he asked General Ezer Weizman, head of operations on the general staff, to come to his home. Speaking candidly of the strain he was under, Rabin asked Weizman whether he believed that he, Rabin, should resign. Weizman, a former air force commander, persuaded Rabin that he needed only a brief rest.


Mrs. Rabin, concerned at her husband’s distress, called the IDF’s chief medical officer who diagnosed “acute anxiety.” The doctor sedated him and Rabin slept until the next afternoon. Word was put out that Rabin had been temporarily incapacitated by nicotine poisoning. When he returned to his headquarters, he was calm and knew what had to be done. There was no way out but war. With moblization, the largest source of manpower remaining in Jerusalem were yeshiva students exempt from the draft. Of the 2,000 volunteers who turned out each day for trench-digging in areas without shelters, 500 were yeshiva students. On the Sabbath after the closing by Egypt of the Tiran Straits passageway to Eilat, the civil defense commander in the Katamon quarter was amazed to see a group of yeshiva students being marched to a digging site by two bearded rabbis.


The prohibition against working on the Sabbath is one of the strictest injunctions of Judaism, but the rabbinate had declared the crisis one of pikuach nefesh (life or death) in which vital work is not only permissible on the Sabbath but mandatory. The two rabbis took off their jackets and joined the students in the trenches with shovels…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


Full Text & Video: US President Donald Trump’s Address in Riyadh at Arab Islamic American Summit : Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, May 21, 2017—U.S. President Donald Trump urged leaders of Arab nations in his speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh on Sunday to “drive out” terrorists from their places of worship, their communities, from their “holy land,” and ultimately from “this Earth.”

Trump Rebukes Abbas and the Palestinian Authority During Bethlehem Visit :  Jewish Press, May 23, 2017—President Trump rebuked PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority at their joint statement in Bethlehem on Tuesday morning. During his talk, Abbas talked about easing the conditions for the PA’s terrorists being held in Israeli jails, some of whom are currently holding hunger strikes so they can get more cable TV channels and earn college degrees. Many of these jailed terrorists are mass murderers.

Trump Can Break the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse: A.J. Caschetta, Gatestone Institute, May 22, 2017—In Saudi Arabia on Sunday, President Trump declared unswerving American commitment to help Riyadh in "confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist and Islamic terror of all kinds." A new coalition of American lawmakers believes he should make an equally important commitment to Israel when he lands there today.

Israel Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem: JCPA, 2017













We’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City.… The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!”—Lt. General Mordechai (Motta) Gur, commander of the first IDF brigade to advance through the Old City of Jerusalem toward the Temple Mount and the Western Wall on June 7, 1967, describing by radio the bringing of Jerusalem’s holiest site under Jewish control for the first time in 2000 years. General Rabbi Shlomo Goren, chief chaplain of the IDF, then sounded the Shofar signify Jerusalem’s liberation. (CAMERA, May 31, 2011.)




Baruch Chohen

In loving memory of Malca z’l


“I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked out of the land which I have given them.” Amos 9:15


As we celebrate Jerusalem Day, we should recall and be proud of the history of our people, Israel. It was King David who captured Jerusalem and completed the unification of the tribes of Israel between 1000-961 B.C.E.


By taking Jerusalem, King David wiped out the last alien enclave in the hills of the Hebrew country and the one hostile fortress that stood between the two portions of the Israelite kingdom. Moreover, the capture of Jerusalem was as necessary to Israel’s independence as it was to the unification of the Israeli tribe. These and other reasons were behind David’s next spectacular move which was to have a far-reaching and great impact on history, making Jerusalemthe capital of Israel!


B’shana habaa B’Yerushalaim Ha’bnuyah!


Jerusalem The Eternal Capital Of Israel—Selected Quotes


“Jerusalem which is bound firmly together binds the Jews to one another.” (Psalm 122:3)

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”(Psalm 122:6)

“In the din and tumult of the age, the still small value of Jerusalem remains our own music.”—IsraelZangwill, 1921

“No city in the world, not even Athens or Rome, ever played as great a role in the life of a nation for so long a time as Jerusalem has done in the life of the Jewish people.”—David ben Gurion, 1947


There Stood—by Paul Celan


There stood
A splinter of fig upon your lip,

There stood
Jerusalem around us,

There stood
The bright pine scent
Above the Danish skiff we thanked

I stood
In you.


Gil Troy

Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2011


I hate disappointing the worrywarts, but today, Jerusalem Day, 2011, 44-years after its reunification, Jerusalem is a remarkably functional city, a surprisingly peaceful city, a delightfully magical city. The city I experience daily is not the city described in the headlines. It does not feel like it is in eclipse, nor does it feel like a powder keg. I absorbed New York’s fear of crime in the 1970s, Boston’s racial tension in the 1980s, and Montreal’s linguistic complexity in the 1990s much more intensely. While jogging through the Old City daily, I feel lucky to live in such a livable city.

Jerusalem invites time-traveling in profound ways while doing mundane tasks. Every day, crossing the footbridge over the Cinemateque looking toward Mount Zion, I observe a panorama of peace reinforced by a symphony of silence, with the Tower of David crowned by its Israeli flag and Muslim crescent, church spires and minarets, the new city’s modern construction to my left and the older houses abutting the Old City to my right. The sweeping Old City walls dominate front and center.

These days, I confess, I think more about recent history than the walls’ ancient history, built by Suleiman the Magnificent 500 years ago but evoking Abraham binding Isaac, King David designating King Solomon, thousands of years earlier. Mahmoud Abbas’s rewriting of the history of 1947, which passed the New York Times’ editorial muster, Barack Obama’s obsession with the 1967 lines, have me wishing Jerusalem’s stones could talk, confirming what really happened when Zionists founded Israel in 1947-1948, when Israelis liberated Jerusalem in 1967, and during the difficult intervening years.

My daily plunge into this past begins with Jerusalem’s 19 years of rupture, as I traverse what was the barbed-wire-and-mine-strewn No-Man’s Land. To my right, the Cinemateque looms, a center of Israel’s edgy, often critical, vibrant democratic culture, contradicting false cries of McCarthyism. To my left, the red-roofed houses of Yemin Moshe unfold, beside Moses Montefiore’s 1857 windmill. I think about the poor people who lived in this, the first neighborhood outside Jerusalem’s walls, during the State’s first years. And I wince imagining their terror when, periodically, Jordanian snipers would shoot. The Jordanian army always reassured the UN that a soldier had gone crazy—again and again.

Scampering up Mount Zion, holy to us and our Christian brethren, I wonder what the fifty soldiers following Captain Eli Kedar thought while hustling along this alley on June 7, 1967. Did they remember the failure to free the besieged Jewish Quarter from this alley in 1948? Did they know the last Jew to leave the Jewish Quarter, headed to Jordanian prison for nine months, was a 15-year-old, Eli Kedar? Did they appreciate their commanders’ genius in mostly attacking from behind, via Lions Gate? Did they know Israel began the war two days earlier with only 71 troops in Jerusalem? Were they aware that, even while the Jordanians shelled Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minster Levi Eshkol offered peace to Jordan’s King Hussein, making the war one of self-defense and any resulting territorial gains not an illegal occupation? Did they sense they were about to correct the historic mistake of the city’s division, returning the Holy Temple’s remnants to Jewish sovereignty after 2000 years? Did they appreciate their army’s sensitivity in deploying archaeologists to try preserving holy sites? Probably, most simply thought about going home—which 759 Israelis after six days never did.

Entering the Jewish quarter I again ponder the nineteen years preceding the Six Day War when Israel—living under Barack Obama’s 1967 borders—were banned from the Old City, although the UN never validated Jordanian control. Those, ahem, illegal occupiers trashed Jerusalem’s synagogues. Contrast that bitter past to the redemptive sights and sounds of kids playing and praying, the burger bars adjoining archaeological museums, the glorious dome of the Hurva synagogue, which means ruins: bombarded by Jordan in 1948; rebuilt and rededicated last year.

Crossing the Jewish Quarter, then the Arab market, seamlessly, safely, I exit through Jaffa Gate. Sixty-four years ago, on December 2, 1947, just days after the UN proposed partitioning Palestine on November 29, Arabs shouting “Death to the Jews!” looted the Jewish commercial center across the way, at the entrance to today’s David Village. This was the Palestinian response to the compromise the Jews accepted. Mahmoud Abbas’s recent New York Times column lied, claiming the Zionists rejected compromise, then “expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state,” when the Arab rejectionists chose violence—and continue to reject a Jewish state.…

In Six Days of War, Michael Oren quotes Arik Akhmon one of the first Israelis in 1967 to enter the Western Wall plaza, as bullets whizzed by. Although not religious, Akhmon recalled, “I don’t think there was a man who wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion. Something special had happened.”

Jerusalem is a real city which cannot “overwhelm” residents daily—life intrudes. But every day I note something “special” about the place, its history or mystery, its sights or smells, its old memories or new achievements. Today, Yom Yerushalayim, let’s honor its secret ingredient, the people it attracts, connected to Jerusalem’s lush past, enlivening the city during its complex yet compelling present, and shaping a safe, spiritually-rich, yet charmingly commonplace future keeping the city magical and livable.

(Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University
and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem.


Yonatan Sredni

Arutz Sheva, May 31, 2011


Some people rank the importance of the day’s events by which stories top the newscasts. For me, I look to see what the American late-night talk-show hosts are joking about. While stories about Israel often hit the front page of US papers, they rarely break into David Letterman’s or Conan O’Brien’s opening monologues.

The exception to the rule occurred last week in the wake of US President Barack Obama’s speech on the Middle East which was followed up by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to both houses of Congress.

The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno, and his Jewish joke-writers, pulled no punches attacking the President: “President Obama suggested that Israel should go back to the pre-1967 borders. Native Americans said, “Why stop there? Let’s go back to the pre-1492 borders.”“

Leno followed up that joke with another jab at Obama later in the week: “Obama was also in England, where the Queen suggested that we go back to the pre-1776 borders.”

But the truth is that 1967 lines are no laughing matter. It’s not only about not being able to ‘go back’ in history, just like one cannot go back to 1492 or 1776. The issue at hand, which Netanyahu strongly stressed in Washington, is security. Netanyahu clearly stated that Israel, “cannot return to indefensible 1967 lines”.

All the talk about the 1967 lines could not be timelier. This Tuesday night and Wednesday is Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). Jerusalem Day commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City (including the Western Wall) during the Six Day War in June 1967. On May 12, 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.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to thank God for the six-day victory and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Religious Zionists gather for special holiday prayers on this day, and some hold special festive meals and wear holiday clothing.

On March 23, 1998, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Day Law, formally making the day a national holiday.

But the fact is, Jerusalem Day need not be a holiday just for Jews. Since it affects people of all faiths who now have the ability to worship freely in Jerusalem, people of all faiths should embrace it. As Netanyahu stated in his speech at Congress last week, “And as for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians, and Moslems could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

I used to get annoyed because as wonderful as Jerusalem Day is, ‘Jerusalem Day’ has become just that—a day for Jerusalem. Unfortunately, outside the capital this important day goes by virtually unnoticed.

Jerusalem will have its parades, its 1 a.m. march to the Kotel from the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva and the afternoon flag march of youth organizations in the streets of the Old City with festive dancing at the Kotel, its Jerusalem flag with the lion on it flapping in the wind. It’s neither Jerusalem nor her residents that I am worried about.

Travel outside the capital and you will hardly see any signs of this holiday at all. Sure, many communities across Israel and the Diaspora hold festive prayer services or concerts for Jerusalem Day. Noami Shemer’s classic ballad “Jerusalem of Gold” is sure to be sung countless times across the nation this week. But ask the average non-Jerusalemite Israeli on the street what’s special about this Wednesday and you will likely get a blank stare.

Will the Israeli press cover Jerusalem Day at all this year, or will they regulate it to their back pages and end of their newscasts, along with the weather reports? Will there be television programs about Jerusalem on Tuesday night or will they take a backseat to whatever passes as “prime time TV” these days (maybe the Israeli version of Survivor, filmed on the other side of the globe)?

Has Jerusalem Day become a sad joke? Overall, there seems to be little awareness of Jerusalem Day outside the capital. The Ministry of Education recently announced that 50% of Israeli students in public schools had never visited Jerusalem at all.

So what can be done to raise Jerusalem awareness? Well, efforts are now being made to organize trips to Jerusalem (which will include visits to important sites like the Kotel, Yad Vashem, Ammunition Hill, the Knesset, etc.) for all Israeli schools. This is certainly a step in the right direction.

But perhaps we owe a ‘debt of gratitude’ to President Obama for mentioning the 1967 lines. Had he not said what he said, it is doubtful that Prime Minister Netanyahu would have so strongly defended his own position that returning to the 1967 was not an option. In an unexpected way, Obama and Netanyahu brought about some major awareness about 1967, which is what Jerusalem Day is all about.

At every Jewish wedding, just before the groom stomps on the glass, the following verses from Psalms (reminding us in times of gladness that the Temple in Jerusalem has yet to be rebuilt) are said: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you…if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.” (137, 5-7)

I believe the key to those verses is in the last phrase—“above my highest joy.” We need to emphasize that “Jerusalem is number one.”

Of course we won’t forget about Jerusalem. But let’s also remember that Jerusalem Day is not a joke, it’s important. Jerusalem is no laughing matter.

And to all those who still don’t know that it’s Jerusalem Day, well then, the joke’s on you.


Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2011


Jerusalem, referred to over 600 times in the Bible, has represented the cornerstone of our Jewish identity for more than three millennia since it became the capital of King David’s Israelite monarchy. It remained at the core of our spiritual longings following the second dispersion when for 2,000 years our forefathers faced Jerusalem in their daily prayers, yearning for a return to their ancestral homeland. Moreover, even throughout their exile, Jews retained a significant presence in their Holy City and since the 1840s have constituted the largest group inhabiting the city.

Jerusalem also has major religious significance for Christians and Muslims, both of whom denied freedom of worship to other religions when they ruled over the city. During the Jordanian control of the Old City from 1948 to 1967, in flagrant breach of armistice agreements, Jews were refused all access to holy sites, and synagogues and graveyards were desecrated and destroyed. And the world remained silent.

Since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, the government of Israel—for the first time—ensured that all faiths could freely worship and maintain their religious institutions. If anything, the Israeli authorities discriminated against Jews, denying them the right to worship on the Temple Mount lest Muslims took offense.

Yet to this day many Palestinians deny that there ever was a Jewish presence in the city and make preposterous allegations that the Jewish holy sites, including the Temple, were Zionist fabrications concocted to justify “the Jewish colonialist enterprise.”

To this end they have been systematically destroying archeological evidence on the Temple Mount.

In addition, we are now faced with a determined campaign in which most of the world, including the Obama administration, is pressuring us to once again divide Jerusalem. Even prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, an architect of the Oslo Accords, on the eve of his assassination warned the Knesset that Jerusalem must remain united. And indeed in this day and age the concept of dividing cities is considered retrograde.

We are also painfully aware of the appalling track records of many Islamic states which deny freedom of worship to non-Muslims. The record of the Palestinians in this context is particularly vile, and we should be under no illusions how they would behave if they gained control of the holy sites.

But beyond this there is also the question of security. Every Israeli withdrawal in recent years has led to emboldening the jihadists and intensified aggression and terror. A division of Jerusalem would virtually guarantee that a corrupt or impotent Palestinian Authority or a rabid Hamas would be tempted to launch terror actions against neighboring Jewish areas.

Jerusalem Day should therefore not merely be a day of celebration. It should also be a day in which we pledge that, irrespective of the creative solutions devised to provide greater autonomy for Arabs in Jerusalem, the city must never be divided and Israel must remain the custodian to guarantee freedom of worship to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Alas, today, many of us tend to overdramatize the challenges confronting us and display a penchant for self criticism which approaches masochism. Jerusalem Day should be a day when we give thanks to the Almighty for His intervention and pay tribute to those who fought against overwhelming odds to reunite the city and establish our national homeland.

Despite successive wars, facing ongoing terror and still being surrounded by enemies pledged to destroy us, Israel is here to stay. Seven and half million Israeli citizens, three quarters of whom are Jews, have achieved a demographic critical mass and notwithstanding the many doomsday predictions, the Jewish state can never be undone.

And despite an absence of natural resources, we have transformed our country into a veritable economic powerhouse which has achieved miraculous progress in science, technology, industry and agriculture. Tiny Israel has more hi-tech start-ups and companies listed on NASDAQ than any country other than the US. Our arts and cultural development is expanding and we continue producing Nobel Prize winners.

We have undergone a religious revival and today there are more Jews in Israel learning Torah than in any age in Jewish history.

We have successfully absorbed millions of Jews, the majority being Holocaust survivors and refugees finding haven from oppression. They originate from all four corners of the globe ranging from Western olim to Ethiopians. And while the integration process has still a long way to go, no society in the world has succeeded in absorbing such a mass of immigrants and molding them into a nation.

We see the shocking global resurgence of anti-Semitism, mankind’s oldest and perennial hatred, throughout the Western world. Many Diaspora Jews, especially in Europe, have reached the obvious conclusion that there is no future for their children in societies that treat them as pariahs. In contrast, our children live without ever experiencing the pain and humiliation of discrimination or being treated as inferior. For them Jewish identity is natural and requires no justification. The world applies double standards against us. With millions of innocent human beings murdered or denied human rights, we Jews remain the people who dwell alone.

The bitter lesson of our history has been that while we are obliged to forge alliances, ultimately we must rely on our own resources, rather than the goodwill of others. That is why we should continuously celebrate the fact that after 2,000 years of persecution, degradation and exile, the creation of a Jewish state has now empowered us. We must realize that so long as the majority of our people remain determined, our future rests in our own hands Those who wail about our shortcomings and the corruption within our ranks should realize that it is a mark of a healthy society when it transparently discloses its weaknesses and exacts harsh punishment on leaders who transgress.

We failed to achieve peace with our neighbors because we lack a peace partner. For years we deluded ourselves into believing that providing Arabs with land would achieve peace, only to belatedly realize that the Palestinian goal was neither peace, nor an independent state for themselves. Their primary objective was to deny legitimacy to Jewish sovereignty in the region.

When in years to come, our neighbors ultimately come to the realization that they can never vanquish us, they will follow the example of Egypt and Jordan—and appoint leaders who will peacefully coexist and enjoy prosperity with us.

I often contemplate what our grandparents would have thought during the dark years of the Holocaust had someone predicted to them that the Jewish people would rise like a phoenix from the ashes to resurrect a Jewish homeland which would become the greatest success story of our century. That is the theme that should run through our minds as we celebrate Jerusalem Day. And it should make us smile.