Today, April 20, 2012, in the Hebrew calendar 28 Iyar 5772 is Jerusalem Day, in Hebrew Yom Yerushalayim.
Looking back, it will be worthwhile putting on paper a story I own that directly relates to that historical day, most emotional for the Jewish people. It is when, on the second day of the Six Day War, Mordechai “Motta” Gur, then the Commander of the Paratroops Brigade that regained Jerusalem shouted, and which was recorded for the history books, “Har Habayit Be’yadeinu,” Temple Mount is in our hands…
On June 5 at 7:45AM Israeli time, Israel’s civil defense sirens sounded all over the country and the Six Day War began.
On June 7, 1967, IDF paratroopers broke into the old city through the Lions’ Gate, advanced through the Old City toward the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, bringing Jerusalem’s holiest site under Jewish control for the first time in 2000 years. As Lt. General Gur’s brigade approached the Old City he announced to his company commanders, and there are sound recordings of the scene, “We’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City…” and shortly afterwards, “The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!” General Rabbi Shlomo Goren, then the chief chaplain of the IDF, sounded the Shofar at the Western Wall to signify its liberation from enemy hands. To Israelis and Jews all over the world, this was a joyous and momentous occasion. Many even consider it a gift from God. Israel conquers Jerusalem.
Immediately after the war, on my last days in military service, I was privileged to take a “tour” of Gaza, the Golan Heights, “West Bank” and Jerusalem. For the first time I saw the land our army returned to us, land that legally belongs to the Jewish nation and was taken from us, in an aggressive war, the Arabs launched on Israel the day after David Ben-Gurion declared our independence, on 14 May 1948 ( 5 Iyar 5708).
Being in Jerusalem, walking its mystical narrow streets, standing at the Western Wall and leaving a prayer-wish note in its cracks was the highlight of that first visit to the Holiest of Holy to the Jewish People, the outside Wall to the Jewish Temple.
Since then, though I am living abroad, I visited Israel and the Kotel-the Wall many times.
When my son was about to turn thirteen, on December 7, 1985, in the Jewish tradition a symbolic birthday named Bar-Mitzvah, I have decided that there is no other place on earth to celebrate this special birthday date than the Wall.
From the USA, where I live, with the help of my sister, now deceased, who lived in Israel, I planned a Bar-Mitzvah day event that turned to be one of the highlights of my life.
My son A. and I arrived to Israel few days earlier. We could only schedule the ceremony at the Wall for Monday, December 23, 1985, slightly later than my son’s authentic birthday date being December 7th.
The night before it rained especially hard. Since the ceremony was to be under the skies I could not sleep; if it continued raining the ceremony could not take place.
But God was there, the entire day and beyond. The clouds moved on and the sun, specially bright that day, warmed the earth, smiled at us and caressed us lovingly. So that people would not have to travel and fight traffic, I hired a bus and a tour guide for the day. What better day could it be to have a tour guide to deliver, even to Israelis a lesson in geography and history about their own country. The bus arrive on time and we departed from my, now deceased, mother’s home in Haifa, heading to Jerusalem and picking up guests along the way. It was great kinship to see and get together with many family members and friends who I invited to share the special day with us.
When we got to the Wall, the rabbi who was assigned to guide my son through the ceremony greeted us. He was concerned that since the Bar-Mitzvah boy did not speak Hebrew he will not be able to recite well the Biblical chapter and the Haftarah assigned for his birth date and for which he studied for months. I was nervous too.
(The Haftarah is a series of selections from the books of Ne’vi’im-Prophets of the Hebrew Bible-Tanach that is publicly read in synagogues as part of Jewish religious practice. The Haftarah reading follows the Torah reading on each Shabbat.)
At the Wall the guests split; men were to stand near the Bar-Mitzvah groom on the Wall’s courtyard while the women stood in close proximity behind a stumpy wall.
My son A. was nervous; his blood was drained from his face. Since I was divorced, his father did not attend the ceremony and my brother-in-law and a childhood friend took over the father’s position to assist him.
My son was sent to an enclosure near the Wall to fetch the Bible scroll from which he was to read. He emerged majestically embracing and carrying the scroll and walked to put it on the podium table where he was to stand and read . Then the ceremony began; my son began to read his assigned Bible chapter and Haftarah in perfect order. First he read softly with slight nervous vice and then he picked up the tempo. His voice grew louder and the reading flawless. As he was reading, in flowing Hebrew the rabbi’s face lit up; he was impressed how well my son was trained to deliver the reading. And the guests, oh’ the guests, they were in happy land. The sun was especially caressing and the Jerusalem wind was cooling; standing by the Holiest of Holy Wall, the tears and smiles of joy while being among friends and family and the flawless Bar-Mitzvah ceremony all reminded us how proud we need to be as Jews.
I was in Heavenly Jerusalem and in heavenly happiness. I could not have been happier. There is no other place on earth where a Jewish boy can celebrate his beginning of manhood and his entering a an adult life of responsibility than the Wailing Wall, near where the First and Second Jewish Temples stood. The candies the guests threw at the birthday boy, the singing and the smiling faces attested to that.
From there we all gathered in the Holy Land Hotel where we held the most delicious later lunch event.
The day turned as perfect as God can deliver in His city, Jerusalem
There is no greater national joy that I enjoy more than knowing that All of Jerusalem is in Our Hands, in Jewish Hands. There are no other emotions to compare with to the emotions that engulf me and burst out of me when I stand at the Wall, before, then, at my son’s Bar-Mitzvah and till today.
Har Habayit Be’yadeinu. Har Habayit Hu She’lanu-Temple Mount is in our hands, it is ours.
Too anyone who still accepts the myth that so-called “East” Jerusalem is an Arab city, historically separate from Israel’s capital…here is a video to watch.