One June 7, 1967, at 10 AM, Paratroop Col. Motta Gur spoke on the radio from the Temple Mount, saying those words which evoke tears every time I hear them: הר הבית בידנו –the Temple Mount is in our hands! Jewish hands, for the first time since the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. And Jews were now able to pray at the Kotel, the Western Wall, for the first time since the beginning of the Occupation — yes, I’m referring to the illegal Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which began in 1948 and ended in June of 1967.
The battles leading up to the conquest of the old city were bloody, and the paratroopers had suffered heavy losses. There were still Jordanian snipers in the area.
Chief IDF Rabbi Gen. Shlomo Goren (later to become the Chief Rabbi of Israel) ignored the snipers and ran to the Temple Mount moments later with a shofar and a Sefer Torah in his hands. Later as soon as the time for the afternoon prayer arrived, he went to the Kotel, where he led the first mincha prayer at the newly-liberated wall.
Rav Goren at the Temple Mount, June 7, 1967
You know this story. But do you know the rest of the story?
A young paratrooper, Yaakov ‘Ziggy’ Sagiv (born Zigelboim, hence the nickname) was standing next to Rav [Rabbi] Goren. Sagiv wrote,
[He had] a Sefer Torah in his right hand, a shofar in his left, but no siddur [prayer book]. I offered him mine. We joined together in reading the great Hallel and in saying the Menachem Tzion, the first prayer at the Kotel nineteen years after the fall of the Jewish Quarter and the Old City in the 1948 war. — “Nekudot”, May 1992 (my translation)
Rav Goren prayed from Sagiv’s siddur. Before giving it back, he wrote this inside:
To Yaakov Zigelboim,
We prayed the first mincha service, great Hallel and Menachem Tzion from this siddur at the Kotel on the day of the liberation, 28 Iyar 5727.
Shlomo Goren, Aluf [General] (my translation)
Yakov ‘Ziggy’ Sagiv’s siddur
In the words of the great Paul Harvey,
Now you know the rest of the story.
To learn more about Rav Goren, see “Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Torah Sage and General“, by Shalom Freedman.