During the 1948 War of Independence, Jordanian forces overcame the small group of Jewish fighters who defended the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. Jewish women and children were let go. The Jewish men were taken as prisoners of war. With this act, Jewish presence in the Old City, which lasted since King David days, came to an abrupt end.
When the war ended, Israel controlled the western (newer) neighborhoods, which were populated by Jews. Jordan controlled the eastern neighborhoods (older neighborhood), which were populated by Muslims and Christians, and the Jewish Quarter including the Western (Wailing) wall on Temple Mount. The most sacred place for the Jewish people was in enemy hands. For the first time, since biblical times, Jews couldn’t visit the Jewish Quarter or pray at the Western Wall.
In the fall of 1949 the General Assembly of the United Nations began debating how to implement its decision of 29 November 1947 regarding the establishment of Jerusalem as a separate international entity under the auspices of the United Nations. The Soviet Union supported this proposal. On the eve of the debate, on 5 December 1949, David Ben Gurion the Prime Minister, announced in a Knesset session that Jewish Jerusalem is an organic and inseparable part of the State of Israel. He added that Israel could not even conceive that the United Nations would attempt to tear Jerusalem from the State of Israel, especially considering what Jerusalem went through during Israel’s War of Liberation.
This announcement, however, made no impression on most of the members of the United Nations and they voted by a large majority to internationalize Jerusalem. On December 13 1949, Ben Gurion declared that Israel “would not permit the forced disconnection of Jerusalem from Israel”. He requested forthwith that the Knesset conduct its sessions in Jerusalem. Consequently, the Knesset decided that after Hanukah 1949 it would renew its sessions in Jerusalem. In the following months most of the government offices were moved to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
The battle of Jerusalem began on the morning of June 5, 1967 when the Jordanians opened fire along the entire cease-fire line. By that afternoon the Jordanians occupied the Governor’s Palace. The Central Command of the Israeli Army, under the command of General Uzi Narkiss, moved the “Har’el” brigade to the Jerusalem front. This force tore through the enemy positions of “Har Adar” and “Abdul Aziz” and conquered “Nebi Samuel”.
By the morning of June 6 this force reached the Jerusalem-Rammalah road and stormed “Tel-El” and “Givat HaMivtar”. In addition a paratroop brigade was moved up. Its instructions were to open the way to Mount Scopus and the Rockefeller Museum in order to position themselves to break through to the “Old City” of Jerusalem on very short notice.
This force cut through the frontline of the town and occupied the Police Academy, Ammunition Hill, Mandelbaum Gate, the American quarter and “Wadi Jos”. The way to Mount Scopus was now cleared and the northeast section of Jerusalem was liberated.
On June 7th the General Staff issued the order to liberate the “Old City”. The Central Command activated the paratroop brigade that had conquered the Mount of Olives and the Mount Scopus ridge. These troops broke through to the “Old City” by way of the “Lions’ Gate” and hoisted the Israeli flag over the “Western Wall” (the last surviving remnant of the Second Temple).
Colonel Mordechai Gur, on June 7, 1967, speaking to his troops in a regimental formation on the Temple Mount after Jerusalem was reunited in the Six Day war:
“Paratroopers, conquerors of Jerusalem!
When the Temple Mount was conquered by the Greeks it was liberated by the Maccabees. The ‘Kanaim’ and Bar Kochva fought against those that destroyed the Second Temple.
For 2,000 years the Temple Mount was off limits to the Jews.
Until you, the paratroopers, came and returned it to the bosom of its people. The Western Wall, towards which every Jewish heart beats, is again in our hands.
Many Jews risked their lives, over our very long history, to come to Jerusalem and to reside in it.
An infinite number of wistful poems have expressed the profound desire for Jerusalem that beats in every Jewish heart. During the War of Liberation incredible efforts were made to reclaim the heart of the people – the Old City and the Western Wall.
To you has fallen the great privilege to complete the circle, to give back to the people its eternal capital and its sacred center.
Many paratroopers, our finest and most veteran comrades, fell in this terrible battle.
It was a rapid and ferocious battle. In it you functioned as one body that crushed anything that stood in your way without concern for your own injuries.
You did not gripe, you did not complain, you did not report, you just advanced and conquered.
Jerusalem is yours – forever.”
Following the 6-Day War victory, on June 27, 1967, the Government presented the Knesset with three law proposals. These proposals determined the effective unification of Jerusalem and sanctioned the application of Israeli law in the entire area of the unified city. The municipal boundaries of the city were altered and its area was increased threefold. At the same time a law was adopted that enabled free access to the holy places by the members of every religion.
In 1980, the Basic Law: Jerusalem was adopted. This law determined that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and the location of all state authorities.
On May 12 1968 the Government, decided to make the 28th of Iyar the symbolic holiday, Jerusalem Day , a day that symbolizes the continued historical connection of the Jewish People to Jerusalem. Thirty years later, this holiday became anchored in the law: On March 23 1998 the Knesset passed the second and third readings of the “Jerusalem Day Law”, which determined that the date that Jerusalem was liberated during the 6-Day War was now a national holiday.
After the 6-Day War the city and its environs underwent an intensive and unprecedented process of restoration and development. Institutions were built, entire new neighborhoods were established and an extensive system of roads and transportation infrastructure was constructed.
Ten new neighborhoods were built. This development enabled a significant increase in Jerusalem’s population and the absorption of considerable numbers of new immigrants.
In December 2012 Jerusalem’s population stood at 815,300 people, including 515,200 Jews and 300,100 Arabs. It is currently the largest city in Israel.
Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, has become a large and expansive city. It stands as an inspiration not only to residents of Israel and the Jewish People but also to the entire world. Jerusalem attracts tourists from around the world who come to see her beauty, to soak in its past and make a pilgrimage to the holy sites, which serve as a place for prayer and a connecting point for the members of all three major religions.
Jerusalem Day is celebrated by Jewish communities worldwide. It symbolizes the unbreakable link between the Jewish people and their historic religious center. The pictures shown here were taken on on Jerusalem Day celebration, in Boca Raton, Florida.
Notes from the Western Wall
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Neshama Karlibach and Josh Nelson performing in Boca Raton during Jerusalem Day celebration on May 17,2015
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