Today is Yom Yerushalayim, the day that we commemorate the reunification of the holy city of Jerusalem. As hard as it is for people my age to think of a world without the state of Israel, for me, it’s even more difficult to imagine an Israel without Jerusalem. I spent a year studying in the Old City and explored the nooks and crannies of our holy capital. It’s the city that I’ve spent the most time in when I’ve traveled to Israel, one that is very close to my heart. Yet, as unfathomable as this is for me and my peers, Israel sans access to Jerusalem was a reality for Jews living between 1948-1967, including my own parents.
My mother A”H was 13 at the time of the Six Day War. She told me of what it was like to be in school at that time. I remember her telling me that she walked into her classroom and there were a couple of Jewish teachers sitting together and crying, huddling over a small radio. My mother looked at them confused, wondering what exactly was going on. One teacher responded that Jerusalem was now in Jewish hands, and this was a great day for Jewish people. It was only years later that my mother truly recognized why that day was so special.
A few years ago while I was in my first year of semicha, our last day of shiur fell out on Yom Yerushalayim. Rather than give us just a pep talk before our end-of-the-year bechina, Rabbi Mordechai Willig gave us a real treat. This consisted of learning a piece written by Rabbi Sraya Deblitzky, a mekubal and tremendous talmid chacham from Bnei Brak, from 1968 on the magnitude of the day and how he found it unbelievable that the entire country was not celebrating the miracles that occurred. Woven along with this maamar was Rav Willig’s own first hand account of being in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh during the Six Day War, as well as spending Shavuot at the Kotel HaMaaravi, which was now in Jewish hands. As one who had no idea of this amazing story, it was a real treat to hear. For those of you that have 30 minutes and 37 seconds today, take a listen to the shiur and you too will be wowed.
Until 1967, Hayinu Kecholmim, the Jewish people were like dreamers, somehow maintaining an impossible wish that one day, our holy city would be back in our hands. In 1967, we merited to get the real estate back. Today, the dream has shifted from getting the land, to one day being zocheh to see the Temple rebuilt. One can travel to the tayelet, the lookout promenade where you can see the entire city of Jerusalem, and see a truly amazing view of the city. You can even get similar amazing perspective from Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus). But as glorious as Jerusalem appears, the landscape is glaringly incomplete without the Beit Hamikdash, our holy Temple. Today, and every day, we look at the bustling metropolis that is the modern city of Jerusalem, and marvel at how far it has come, how much it has developed. With that in mind, as well as the knowledge of what occurred 49 years ago, we pray every day that our Temple be rebuilt soon, so we may be able to celebrate together as one people, and make the city of Jerusalem even more special, even more beautiful.