Thursday, May 24, 2007

200,000 Jews Return to Father's House!

Courtesy: Larry Domnitch & Aish.Com

Over the last two millennia, Jews have visited Jerusalem in honor of the festivals, in lieu of the biblically-ordained pilgrimages. On the holiday of Shavuot (Pentacaust), there was also the custom to visit the purported grave of King David on Mount Zion, since the date of his death was on Shavuot.

When Shavuot arrived in 1948, it was a month after the establishment of the State of Israel, and Jews could no longer continue to make the pilgrimage to the Western Wall. The Jordanians, who occupied the eastern half of the city since the War of Independence, blocked all rights of passage to the Jews. However, the pilgrimage to King David's tomb on nearby Mount Zion, located on the Israeli side of divided Jerusalem, continued. Over the next 19 years, crowds made their way to Mount Zion, where across barbed wire they could view the Old City and the Temple Mount.

On the morning of Shavuot, June 15, 1967 -- just six days after the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem in the Six Day War -- the Old City was officially opened to the Israeli public. (The army wanted to be sure there were no landmines or snipers still in the Old City.) For the first time in almost 2,000 years, masses of Jews could visit the Western Wall and walk through the cherished streets of Judaism's capital city as members of the sovereign Jewish nation. Each Jew who ventured to the Western Wall on that unforgettable day was realizing their ancestors' dreams over the millennia. It was one of those rare, euphoric moments in history.

From the late hours of the night, thousands of Jerusalem residents streamed toward the Zion gate, eagerly awaiting entry into the Old City. At 4 a.m., the accumulating crowds were finally allowed to enter the area of the Western Wall. As the sun continued to rise, there was a steady flow of thousands who made their way to the Old City.

The Jerusalem Post described the epic scene:

Every section of the population was represented. Kibbutz members and soldiers rubbing shoulders with Neturei Karta. Mothers came with children in prams, and old men trudged steeply up Mount Zion, supported by youngsters on either side, to see the wall of the Temple before the end of their days.

Some wept, but most faces were wreathed in smiles. For 13 continuous hours, a colorful variety of all peoples trudged along in perfect order, stepping patiently when told to do so at each of six successive barriers set up by the police to regulate the flow.

In total, 200,000 visited the Western Wall that day. It was the first pilgrimage, en masse, of Jews to Jewish-controlled Jerusalem on a Jewish festival in 2,000 years, since the pilgrimages for the festivals in Temple times.

An eyewitness described the moment:

"I've never known so electric an atmosphere before or since. Wherever we stopped, we began to dance. Holding aloft Torah scrolls we swayed and danced and sang at the tops of our voices. So many of the Psalms and songs are about Jerusalem and Zion, and the words reached into us a new life. As the sky lightened, we reached the Zion gate. Still singing and dancing, we poured into the narrow alleyways beyond."

On Shavuot, 3,279 years earlier, the Israelites stood at Mount Sinai and forged a unique relationship with their Creator. On the day of Shavuot following Israel's amazing victory in the Six Day War, multitudes ascended to the Western Wall, and they, too, felt the eternal magic of this moment. After all, "For from Zion shall come forth Torah, and the Word of God from Jerusalem."

This "pedestrian pilgrimage" has now become a recurring tradition. And on this year as well, early on Shavuot morning - after a full night of Torah learning -- the streets of Jerusalem will be filled with tens of thousands of Jews, walking with and anticipation and awe to the Western Wall.


Live from the Western Wall

Television producer Yossi Ronen recalls broadcasting the liberation of the Temple Mount and Western Wall. The third of three eye witness accounts provided to 'Bamahane - IDF Magazine' by men who took part in the key moments of the Six Day War, which helped change the course of Jewish, Middle East and world history.

At the beginning of June 1967, as Israeli forces prepared to confront the Egyptian army, most Army Radio reporters were situated in the south of the country.

Those in the regular army and in the reserves were with their units in the field, and each day phoned in reports. I had started working at Army Radio two months earlier. As the newest rookie, I was assigned the "dirty work" of taking dictation from these reporters. So when the Jordanians began shelling Jerusalem, there was nobody available to report on what was happening in the capital.

In spite of my inexperience in the field, I asked to leave for Jerusalem. I envisioned a city under siege, as it had been during the War of Independence, with nobody there to report on what was happening. To my great disappointment, my request was denied, due to a shortage of available vehicles and tape recorders. It was only toward evening that help arrived from an unexpected source.

A 23-year-old from Holon, by the name of Yossi Velni, presented himself to Dayan, and announced that because he had not been drafted, he was requesting to volunteer for Army Radio. He had a Grundig tape recorder and a powerful Triumph motorcycle, and so my problem was solved.

On the morning of Tuesday, June 6, we raced over the empty roads leading to Jerusalem. Around Ramle, we had to evade a military roadblock, which tried to prevent us from continuing due to Jordanian shelling along the way.

We arrived in Jerusalem, and found that the streets were almost empty. In the background, sounds of explosions could be heard. Most of the city's residents were in bomb shelters. In order to be brought up to date, and then to join one of the units fighting in the field, we headed to the Jerusalem regimental headquarters. This was on a rooftop several stories high - the Histadrut building on Straus Street. The sight which greeted us could have been taken from a movie. Jerusalem was spread out below us, and beyond it Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. Israeli Air Force planes dove relentlessly toward Jordanian posts, and at concentrations of tanks in the area of what is now Ma'aleh Adumim. A bit to our north, we could see the shelling around King Hussein's unfinished palace, next to the police academy. In the south we could watch the battle of Armon Hanatziv.

Our tape recorder was running nonstop. I described the planes' dives as though it were an Independence Day parade. We located an unmanned switchboard a few floors below us, which we used to pass on the recorded material to the studio in Jaffa. We spent the night on the roof, from which a giant searchlight illuminated the combat area across from us.

Throughout the morning of Wednesday, June 7, Velni and I were glued to walkie-talkies from which emanated various battle commands. Suddenly we recognized the familiar voice of the commander of the paratroops brigade, Colonel Mordechai "Motta" Gur, giving orders to the battalion commanders to occupy the Old City: "Attention, all battalion commanders! We are sitting on the mountain range which looks down on the Old City, and are about to enter it. The Old City of Jerusalem, which all generations have been dreaming about and striving toward. We will be the first to enter it!" "Eitan's tanks are progressing from the left and will enter the Lions Gate. Move! Move to the gate! The final rendezvous will be on the open square above." It was clear that Gur was referring to the open square of the Temple Mount.

With us on the roof was General Shlomo Goren, at that time the chief rabbi of the Israeli army. He informed Gur over the walkie-talkie that he was on his way to meet him, so as to be among the first to enter the Old City. Accompanied by his loyal assistant, Rabbi Menahem Hacohen, Goren ran down the dozens of steps. Deciding in a split second, I ran down after him, followed by Velni. It was only in the car that Goren realized he was not alone.

During a fast drive in the direction of the Mandelbaum Gate, which had served up until then as a crossing point between Jewish and Arab Jerusalem, I told him that we were Army Radio staff members, and that it was our intention to join up with Gur.

Upon our entry into Jordanian territory, we were stopped by the paratroopers, who were on their way toward the Old City. We were forbidden to continue by car, since the entire area was under sniper and shell fire. So we left the vehicle and continued quickly on foot. As far as I remember, we were the only ones in the whole area running without helmets or weapons. Goren was armed only with a shofar and a Bible, and we carried only a tape recorder and a knapsack filled with batteries and rolls of recording tape.

We ran, while trying to stay as close as we could to the Old City wall to our right, but exposed to the sniper fire coming from the Mount of Olives on our left. Our mad rush was made even more difficult by the short cord, approximately two meters long, connecting my microphone to the recorder carried by Velni. Not knowing better, I continued to describe into the microphone what was happening in an out-of-breath rush of broken sentences.

Today I know that it was precisely my lack of professional experience which contributed, more than anything else, to the authentic documentation of the breakthrough into the Old City. As we ran, we passed two lines of paratroopers who were progressing carefully toward the Lions Gate. Goren was determined to get to the head of the line as quickly as possible. At the top of the street leading to the Lions Gate, we passed a still-smoking Jordanian bus. We stopped only at the gate itself, which was blocked by an Israeli Sherman tank which had gotten stuck in the entrance. We climbed over the tank and entered the Old City.

Now the excitement reached its peak. Goren did not stop blowing the shofar and reciting prayers. His enthusiasm infected the soldiers, and from every direction came cries of "Amen!" The paratroopers burst out in song, and I forgot my role as "objective reporter" and joined them in singing "Jerusalem of Gold." We reached the Temple Mount. Deputy Chief of General Staff, General Haim Bar-Lev and head of the Central Command, General Uzi Narkiss, were also on hand. Dozens of soldiers flowed onto the square, and the senior commanders gave short, emotional speeches.

Narkiss recalled the unsuccessful attempt he led during the War of Independence to liberate the Old City. With great emotion, he finished with the words: "Never has there been such a thing, for those standing here right now. I am speechless. We all kneel before history."

To Hear This Historic Broadcast


Jerusalem Talking Points

Courtesy: Betty Ehrenberg & OU.ORG

The Jewish claim to Jerusalem is rooted in more than 3,000 years of history. Jerusalem has been at the center of Jewish consciousness for over 3,000 years, even before King David made it the capital of his kingdom in 1004 BCE. Abraham’s binding of Isaac and the dream of Jacob’s ladder took place in Jerusalem, according to the Bible. No other city has played such a prominent role in the history, culture, and religion of a people, as has Jerusalem for the Jews.

1. Throughout the Jewish Diaspora, Jerusalem has always remained foremost in the thoughts of the Jewish people as they turn to Jerusalem three times a day in prayer. No wedding or other celebration is without references to the Jewish people for their ancient capital. Jerusalem is mentioned in everyday prayers and on holidays and festivals. At the end of the Passover Seder and the Yom Kippur Services, Jews proclaim, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

2. Jewish independence in the land of Israel, which ended in 70 CE and was renewed in 1948, marks the longest period of sovereignty over Jerusalem by any nation. No other nation can claim such a long political existence in the recorded history of this unique city. Jerusalem was never the capital of any other state.

3. Throughout all the periods of foreign rule over Jerusalem (Roman, 70CE – 324; Byzantine, 324 – 614; Persian, 614 – 640; Arab 640 – 1099; Crusader, 1099 – 1291; Mamluk, 1291 – 1516; and Ottoman Turk, 1516 – 1918) Jews were persecuted, massacred, and subject to exile. Even so, the Jewish presence in Jerusalem remained constant and enduring.

4. Jews have always chosen to settle in Jerusalem. Since 1840, Jews constituted the largest ethnic group in this city and have held an uninterrupted majority in Jerusalem since the 1860s.

5. No other nation or state which gained political sovereignty over the area had ever made Jerusalem a capital city. Both the Arab and Mamluk empires chose to rule from Damascus, while the Ottoman ruler resided in Constantinople. None of these empires even granted Jerusalem the status of district capital. When Israel reunited the city in 1967, she found Jerusalem in a state of ruin and destruction, badly neglected by those who formerly had jurisdiction over Jerusalem.

6. The liberation and reunification of Jerusalem occurred in 1967 during the Six Day War. The only time the city was divided was between the years of 1948 and 1967, the result of unprovoked attack followed by unrecognized annexation by Jordan:

- On May 14, 1948, upon the termination of the British Mandate, Israel proclaimed its independence. Immediately, the surrounding Arab countries attacked the fledgling state and besieged the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

- On May 28, 1948, the Arab Legion overran the Jewish Quarter in eastern Jerusalem while Israel held onto the Jewish populated western neighborhoods of the city. Jerusalem was divided for the first time in its history.

- In 1950, Transjordan annexed the West Bank and Jerusalem in an act which was neither recognized by the world community nor by the Arab states.

7. On June 5, 1967, an unprovoked Arab attack was launched on the Jewish-populated western neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Indiscriminate artillery bombardment damaged religious sites, hospitals, and schools across the 1949 armistice line. The UN headquarters south of Jerusalem was seized, and enemy troops began to enter nearby Jewish neighborhoods.

8. On June 7, the IDF retook the Old City, reuniting Jerusalem. The barbed wire and concrete barriers which had divided Jerusalem were finally torn down, and Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration was extended to the eastern neighborhoods of the city.

9. Jerusalem is and has always been an undivided city except for this 19-year period. There is no justification for this short period to be viewed as a factor in determining the future of this city and to negate over 3,000 years of unity.

10. There is no basis in international law for the position supporting the status of the separate entity for the city of Jerusalem. This concept originated in a proposal contained in the UN General Assembly resolution 181 of November 1947, which dealt with the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine. This was a non-binding proposal and never materialized. It was rendered irrelevant when the Arab states rejected the UN resolution and invaded Israel.

11. Immediately following the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, Jerusalem’s Arab residents were offered full Israeli citizenship, though most declined to accept it. Those who chose not to accept it still retain the rights to participate in municipal elections and enjoy all economic, cultural, and social benefits afforded Israeli citizens including health benefits, and social security, among others.

12. In 1949, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion acted to reconstitute the seat of government in Jerusalem and the Knesset was reconvened in the city in December of that year.

13. Following the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, together with the extension of Israeli jurisdiction and administration over East Jerusalem, the Knesset passed the ‘Preservation of the Holy Places Law of 1967’, which ensured protection and freedom of access to all holy sites of the city to members of all faiths.

14. In 1980, the Knesset legislated ‘Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel’ which restates the position that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel” and the seat of its main governing bodies. This law reiterates Israel’s commitment to protecting the holy places and to developing the city.

15. There has always been a national consensus in Israel on the status of Jerusalem. Since the reunification of the city in 1967, all Israeli governments had declared their policy that united Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital, is one indivisible city under Israeli sovereignty.

16. On May 28, 1995, then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin stated, “In 1980, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem law. All the governments of Israel, including the present government, have been fully confident that what was determined in 1967, what was legislated in 1980 transforming Jerusalem into a unified city under Israeli sovereignty, the capital of Israel, the heart of the Jewish people – these are facts that will endure for eternity.”