Yom Yerushalayim: Israeli holiday celebrates Jerusalem

Crowd of young people wearing white shirts and waving flags of Israel, in the streets surrounded by stone buildings

Crowds take to the streets and fly high the flag of Israel on Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day. Photo by Yoel Ben-Avraham, courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, MAY 28: Modern though it may be, today’s Yom Yerushalayim holiday was almost 2,000 years in the making: today, Jews and many of those who feel home in the “golden city” celebrate Jerusalem Day. Jewish control of Jerusalem ended with the destruction of the Second Holy Temple in 70 CE, and it was only after the Six-Day War of 1967 that Jews felt comfortable and safe, once again, in the city. Obviously, this is not a celebration for everyone living in and around Jerusalem. Palestinians are concerned about encroachment on areas they claim on Jerusalem’s eastern side.

Yom Yerushalayim is one of four holidays added to the Jewish calendar in the 20th century: the others are Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut. (Learn more from My Jewish Learning and the Jewish Virtual Library.) Some strict Orthodox Jews do not recognize the modern holiday at all.

JEWISH OBSERVANCE OF JERUSALEM DAY

State ceremonies, memorial services and speeches take place throughout Jerusalem today, and many  Jews recite special prayers. Today, more and more Israelis hike, drive or bike to Jerusalem for Yom Yerushalayim, in demonstration of their solidarity with the city.

Interested in a more personal account? Check out this article by the UK national director of the Jerusalem Foundation, in her heartfelt ode to the city and to the individuals helping its residents. Or, read the emotional account of one resident who saw Israel through its days before and after the Six-Day War.

CARE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JERUSALEM?

This week, ReadTheSpirit features a review—and a colorful preview video—of the large-screen film touring the world: Jerusalem.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

YOM YERUSHALAYIM: Jews unite with the Old City on Jerusalem Day

Crowd of Jews dressed waving Israeli flags

Jews rejoice for Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim. Photo in public domain

WEDNESDAY, MAY 8: Thousands of Israeli flags wave high through the streets of Jerusalem today—many as part of the annual Flag Parade—as Jews in the Old City mark Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). Historically, Jews recall the reunification of Jerusalem and the institution of Israeli control over the Old City, in 1967; religiously, Jews thank G_d for answering their millennia-old plea of, “Next year in Jeruslaem” and rejoice for their ability to, once again, pray at the Western Wall. (Learn more about the Jewish flag in this piece from the Jewish Press.)

Contrary to the popularity of Israel’s national day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Yom Yerushalayim is rarely commemorated by those outside of Israel; some liberal Jews even find the holiday disconcerting, due to the continuing conflicts over the Old City. In Jerusalem, however, special prayers are recited in every synagogue; schoolchildren learn the significance of the Old City; state ceremonies are conducted and Jews sing and dance in the streets. (Aish.com has related stories and more.) Today, Jews across Israel hike, bike and drive to Jerusalem, visually declaring their solidarity with the Old City.