JERUSALEM, Israel – It was 56 years ago when Israeli paratroopers captured the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount during the 1967 Six-Day War. Thursday marked Jerusalem Day, when Israelis celebrate that history with a flag march.
From the gathering point of the march in west Jerusalem, tens of thousands of people made their way through the streets and into the Old City on their way to the Western Wall – all celebrating the momentous day just 19 years after the country became a modern nation when the city was reunified and Jews could go once again to the parts of the city that had been denied them under Jordanian rule over east Jerusalem.
During the ’67 war, Israeli Colonel Motta Gur announced to the world, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” It marked the first time in more than 2,000 years that their capital was in the hands of the Jewish people.
Former General Uzi Dayan told CBN News, “Actually, I was here in ’67. I was a very young fighter and at the ending of the Six-Day War, they told us, ‘You can go home.’ And nobody went home. We went to our real home: to Jerusalem. And we were wandering around, and it was like a dream. So, it’s nice to come here.”
Dayan witnessed the liberation of Jerusalem as a young soldier and went on to serve as national security advisor to two prime ministers.
“It’s very important today because what brings Israelis, Jewish Israelis, together (is) actually Jerusalem – your homeland, Judaism,” Dayan said. “It’s actually a very strong statement which says this is our country, this is our land, this is our city and Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Israel but also of the Jewish people.”
Dayan’s feeling was shared by many others.
Benjamin Philip, director of the Hineni Israel restaurant and soup kitchen, said the day encompasses a dream of thousands of years. “We celebrate the unification of Jerusalem. At the same time, we celebrate the rebirth of the Jewish people coming back to Israel.”
Hedi Klein, former president of Amuna of America, noted that the march “commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem, which is a city older – years and years and years – from the days of King David. It’s very, very important to the Jewish people.”
Mendi Klein, former president of the Hebron Fund, said, “We want to show that Jerusalem, first of all, is an open city to all religions. This is a wonderful country, open to everybody.”
The march came just days after Israel fought a five-day conflict with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The group fired more than 1,400 rockets at Israel.
Despite threats by Hamas that they would retaliate if the march went through the Muslim section of the Old City, the march went ahead as planned. The gathering was mainly peaceful, with the exception of some minor scuffles between some marchers and Palestinians, and members of the media.
Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, explained, “We are talking about patriotism, we’re talking about love of our city, which has been the centerpiece of our religion and our people for thousands of years. This march has been going on since the year after we reunified the city. This is not new, but in the last few years it’s been turned, it’s been used cynically politically (by adversaries), to try and make a statement. “We’re not gonna have it. We’re gonna march in love and we’re going to continue celebrating our wonderful day.’
As unprecedented domestic battles divided Israel in recent months, and with the growing threat of a nuclear Iran, Dayan says Israel’s greatest strength is the unity of the Jewish people.
“So, if you ask me what is the most important strategic asset of Israel, it’s not the F-35 (jets); It’s not the Merkava 6 or 7 (tanks). It’s not what we don’t talk about. The most important Israeli asset is the Israeli cohesion and our relations with different Jewish communities all over.”
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