The 28th of Eyar is Yom Yerushalayim – the day of liberation and reunification of Jerusalem. The Hebrew letters that represent 28 are כח, which means strength, power or force. Indeed, it took strength and resolve, and the sacrifice of 182 souls to achieve that glorious unification of the ancient-new city. The very place that our People yearned to be at for two millennia is now accessible to all. Muslims and Christians enjoy a true freedom of worship in the city that holds sacred places to them as well as we, the Jewish People, do.
Childhood and Youth
I was an elementary school student then. Too young to serve in the armed forces, yet old enough to understand, feel and remember both the existential fear and the exaltation that followed the victory. A special edition of the Daily Newspaper was distributed on Wednesday at 4:30 pm proclaiming: “The flag of Zion is on Temple Mount”.
The war was still going on, and there was no time to digest the magnitude of the event. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) was still fighting battles with Egypt and Jordan. The Northern Command prepared to charge the Syrian Army on the Golan Heights, with the objective to eliminate the shelling on the residents of the Galilee.
We were living from one news broadcast to the next, connected to small transistor-radios, and watching out for the special editions of the newspapers, which came out 3, 4 and sometimes 5 times a day. TV was not yet on (the first experimental broadcast of the Israeli TV was a year later). From fear for the mere personal existence, we all swung over to the other extreme of invincibility.
Our yearly field trip in the next year was to Jerusalem and the West Bank. I remember that I was more excited by the views of the Churches east and south to the old city and the Al-Aksa Mosque than from the Western Wall. I certainly was not mature enough to grasp the significance of it. It only happened years later.
I remember the warm welcome we received from the Arab residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. After all, they were liberated from an oppressing regime that kept them down economically and socially. Business was souring for them. Everything was cheaper there, and Israelis as well as tourists from all over the world flooded their businesses.
It is now Eyar 1973. The State celebrates its 25th year of existence. The feeling of strength, might, of victory, is still there, taking over all other senses. I had the privilege to witness the military parade that IDF held in Jerusalem. Little we knew that it is the last ever military parade that Israel will hold.
As an adult, it was – and still is – a very special feeling that engulfs me every time I go up to Jerusalem. It does not matter what is the purpose of the visit: business or pleasure. I don’t remember even once that I went up to Jerusalem not driving myself. There is a specific point in the road to Jerusalem, that starts the climb from the plains through the mountains. Its name is “Sha’ar HaGuy” – the gate of the creek. The minute I pass that point a feeling of holy pilgrimage takes over.
You must slow down, as the road winds left and right as well as it ascends. Then, on the left, you see the remnants of some old, make-shift, armed trucks. These lorries brought supplies, food and water during the Arab siege on Jerusalem in 1948. This sight provokes the sorrow over all who fell in connecting Jerusalem to the rest of the country along with the gratitude and pride to their sacrifice and success.
Rolling down the hills at sunset is yet another magical moment. The low sun illuminates the mountains of Jerusalem with bright yellowish light. The reflection of the sun from the windows seems as if the buildings are golden. The words of the song Yerushalayim shel Zahav, “Jerusalem of gold, of copper and of light”, truly reflect the reality of these enchanted moments, that happen every day.
What a special moment was it in 1992, the first performance of the Choir of the Red Army in Jerusalem! Yes, I was there. Here they are, those who represent the Soviet Union, singing to us, the Israelis, in Jerusalem. It is the same USSR that supplied our enemies with arms and pushed them to destroy us. And now they are here. The backdrop behind the stage was the walls of the Old city, with the Tower of David erect behind them. One of the songs they performed was Yerushalayim Shel Zahav in Hebrew. I can’t describe the feeling that flooded me than and there… they tried to annihilate us and we prevailed… It was great!!!