In 1967, Israel fought the six day war
. In that war, four main areas of land were captured by the Israelis: The Golan Mountains
, the West Bank
, the Gaza Strip
and East Jerusalem
The last was a momentous happening for the Jews in the land of Israel. For the first time in 2000 years, the entirety of Jerusalem, including the Bet HaMigdash (the Temple)
, the Old City and the City of David were in Jewish hands, and a national celebration was called, which has, over the years, evolved into Yom Yerushalyim, Jerusalem Day.
I spent my GAP Year
, and I was lucky enough to be in Jerusalem
for Yom Yerushalyim.
I decided, with three friends, that I would like to go and visit the Kotel (the Western/Wailing Wall)
that evening, and so we decided to set out on foot, which was roughly a 40 minute walk.
I should take this opportunity to talk about the people I was with: Susannah is a close friend of mine, with whom I spent the entirety of the Year. She is not particularly observant, but she felt that this was what she wanted to do out of spiritual reasons. Sonia is an Australia
n Girl, attached to the Betar Youth Movement, and friendly with many of the Bnei Akiva people from the Southern Hemisphere. Simon is a secular
Jew who felt that he needed to be there, not out of any type of religious observance, but out of a desire to see Jews being Jewish.
We walked all the way there, and finally managed to get to the Zion Gate just after the first parade
had ended. There are 2 parades on Yom Yerushalyim, both of which consist of many right wing and religious Jews partying through the Old City waving flags
. This isn’t entirely a great idea, as this involves going through all 3 Arab
quarters, which isn’t such a great thing for the locals. It is precisely for this reason that we arrived AFTER the first parade. As we made our way through the Jewish
quarter heading for the Kotel plaza
, we saw people streaming out of the Old City, having just been on the parade, so we thought we may have missed most of the party. We finally got to the staircase leading down to the Kotel Plaza, and, standing at the top, we were all moved by the sight: Somewhere in the region of 40000 people, singing
and delighting in being alive
. It was a highly emotional
moment for all of us. It took us about 15 minutes to get into the actual plaza, including a scary
moment where we realised that we hadn’t actually gone through any security!
When we finally got there, Simon and I headed for the wall itself, and we both acknowledged that there would be no way that we could actually get to the wall, there were too many people. So, we pushed
. We could not believe our luck, we got there!
I cannot describe what it was like. I was standing in the cradle of Judaism
, with thousands of people standing around me, singing songs formed in thousands of years of tradition
, alongside this object which has represented Judaism for the last however many years, saying prayers some of which were thousands of years old. It was an incredible experience. As we stepped back, the band stopped playing, and a Rabbi
stood up to lead evening prayers, and forty thousands voices joined his in the litany
. It was a fantastic moment. After that, the party started again, the band played, we danced, and then some Charedi
guy stepped on Simon’s foot, breaking his shoe! As we walked home, Simon, bear foot because his shoe had broken and wearing a Kippah
on his head looked for all the world like a pilgrim
, walking through the old city.
Chag Sameach – Happy Holiday