Monday, May 10, 2010
One Jerusalem Forever!
On the 28th of Iyar 5727 (June 7, 1967), the dream became a reality. With fire and blood, Jerusalem fell and with fire and blood Jerusalem arose again. Finally, the 2000 year old prayer of "Next Year in Jerusalem" had been answered. Jerusalem, the centre of the Jewish people, which had been cut off from Israel when it was re-established in 1948, was reunited. The pledge made by our ancestors by the rivers of Babylon as they were marched off into captivity, of "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem!" was fulfilled by their descendants in the Israeli Defense Force.
Jerusalem is the very heart of the Jewish people. Since King David first conquered Jerusalem and made it into his eternal capital, Jerusalem has occupied a foremost place in the souls and essence of the Jewish people. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in the Tanach. It was here that King Solomon built the First Temple which stood for 410 years, where the returnees from captivity in Babylon built the Second Temple and where we await the rebuilding of the Third Temple, may it be speedily in our days. At a time when London was barely a forest clearing and Rome was only a collection of villages on the Tiber, Jerusalem was already in Jewish hands, seat of the Jewish kings. Long before Paul preached his gospel or Islam swept across the world, Jerusalem was already firmly implanted in the Jewish conscious for thousands of years.
When the wicked Romans cruelly suppressed the Jewish revolt in 70 CE, they razed Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. They drove the remaining Jews from the land and renamed it 'Palestinae', after Israel bitter biblical enemies. Victoriously, they marched the spoils of the Temple throughout the streets of Rome and minted coins declaring triumphantly "Judea Capta"- Judea is defeated. On the site of the destroyed city of Jerusalem, they built a pagan city dedicated to the idols of Rome. The Caesar and his legions were certain that the pesky capital of Jews, which had caused them so much pain and unrest, would never rise again.
Despite this, the Jew never forgot Jerusalem. In all of the lands of his dispersion, whether in Warsaw or Marakesh, Baghdad or the Pale of Settlement, like a magnet the Jew was drawn towards Jerusalem three times a day and lifted his eyes in prayer, beseeching the Almighty: "And to Your city Jerusalem return in mercy and dwell in it as You have spoken". In the middle of the night, Jews arose in lamentation and mourning over the destruction of their Temple and their holy city. Every single year, the Yom Kippur fast and the Passover seder would end with the solemn vow and fervent hope of "Next year in Jerusalem!". The Jew may have been in Iran or Lithuania, Yemen or France but his heart resided in Jerusalem.
In 1948, when G-d saw fit to return sovereignty to His people over His land, the Jordanians attacked Israel and occupied the eastern portion of Jerusalem. They marched every single Jew out of the Old City and proceeded to dynamite and desecrate every synagogue and study hall. The Jordanians used the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives as latrines and used the Western Wall as a garbage dump. Jews were denied access to their holy places for these 19 years.
On the 28th of Iyar, 5727, after being attacked by three combined Arab armies dedicated to "throwing the Jews into the sea", the Israeli army liberated Jerusalem from its Jordanian occupiers. Israeli paratroopers stormed the city and secured it. The earth-shattering call came out: "The Temple Mount is in our hands!" The Chief IDF rabbi blew the Shofar and recited the shehecheyanu blessing as tears poured down the faces of even the most secular soldier as he kissed the stones of the Kotel, realizing the historical significance of the moment. Jerusalem, despoiled and abused by Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Mamluks, Turks and Arabs, had returned to its owners, the Jewish people. Never again would Jerusalem be empty of Jews. The Temple Mount is in our hands! Jerusalem is in our hands!
Today there is talk in the international community of the partitioning and division of Jerusalem. There is strong pressure to once again wrest the city from Jewish hands. However, the promise made by our ancestors in Babylon remains valid, "if I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning; let my tongue cling to my palate if I do not raise Jerusalem above my greatest joy." We today are guardians of this vow. One united Jewish Jerusalem forever. All of the forces in the entire world will never again separate us from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people. It is from Jerusalem that we derive our strength and our existence.
"And it shall be at the end of the days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains, and it shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it. And many peoples shall go, and they shall say, "Come, let us go up to the Lord's mount, to the house of the God of Jacob, and let Him teach us of His ways, and we will go in His paths," for out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." May we speedily see the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Yishayahu in our days.