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Yom Yerushalayim

Celebrating the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem

The 28th of Iyar marks Yom Yerushalayim - the day that the Israeli army liberated and reunited the city of Jerusalem, the ancient and eternal capital of the Jewish people. Although Jews had been living continuously in Jerusalem, the Jewish people had not had sovereignty over the holy city in nearly 2,000 years!

King David established Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, and it remained the capital up until the time of the Roman exile, centuries later (except for the brief 70 year period of the Babylonian exile).

But Jerusalem was not just the political or administrative capital. It was, and remains the religious center of Judaism. Both Temples stood in Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount, until its destruction in the year 70 CE. Three times a year, the Jewish people would come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the three festivals, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

The Kohanim would offer sacrifices on a daily basis on behalf of the people. The Kohen Gadol would enter the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies) on Yom Kippur, and enact a complex set of rituals on behalf of the entire people as part of the atonement process.

And anytime any individual needed to, he would go up to Jerusalem to offer a personal sacrifice, either because of a sin he committed, or as a way of thanking God for something good, or just as an extra prayer.

Since the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, Jews have prayed 3 times a day for a return to Jerusalem (also known as Zion), for the restoration of the Temple and for the restoration of the Davidic Monarchy. Jews pray facing Jerusalem no matter where they are in the world.

The Gemara in Massechet Ketuvot, speaks of the importance of living in the land of Israel, and that in every generation, a Jew is required to live in Israel. But then it goes on to say that once in Israel, Jerusalem is on an even higher level than the rest of the land.

It was not until the miraculous victory of the Six Day War in 1967 that the Jewish people were once again free to live in Jerusalem, and to develop and grow the city. For the first time in 2000 years, the Shofar was blown on the top of Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), with the famous words of הר הבית בידינו - the Temple Mount is in our hands!

The Israeli army was vastly outnumbered by 3 Arab armies who vowed to destroy the state of Israel. The IDF had no strategic plan to enter or conquer Jerusalem. It was all spur of the moment. Military experts from around the world were unable to explain how Israel won this war. It can only be described as a miracle.

Therefore, we commemorate and celebrate the 28th of Iyar as a holiday. As we do for other miraculous events, we say Hallel, as established by the Chief Rabbinate in order to praise and thank God for this miracle, for our survival, and for our return to Jerusalem. May we all merit to see a complete redemption and the rebuilding of the Bet HaMikdash in Jerusalem.

מועדים לשמחה לגאולה שלמה!



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