Random notes on Jerusalem Day

Today is Jerusalem Day, 28 Iyar. Jerusalem Day commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem in June, 1967. Today, also, almost no political leader in the world outside of Israel thinks Jerusalem should stay unified. Maybe the reason is that after 1967, Israel didn’t take complete control of the Temple Mount, the central feature of Jerusalem and the holiest place in Judaism.

Here is a post I wrote a few years ago about a man who was there in 1967, and his prayer book. It’s worth a look.


This statement was released by Hamas on the occasion of Jerusalem Day:

[We call] for abolition of “Jerusalem Day” and its removal from Israeli calendars, because it is a false holiday commemorating a false event. What is called “The Unification of Jerusalem” was in fact but the creation of a regime of occupation and oppression over the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. It is the rule of police which resorts to the shooting of live ammunition on the streets and resorts to electric shockers against peaceful demonstrators, the rule of settlers who expel Palestinian families from their homes in the middle of the night. Jews were given access to the Western Wall, but inhabitants of the Occupied Territories — Muslims as well as Christians — were denied access to their holy places in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Day is a major holiday for extreme nationalists and racists, settlers and provocateurs. The vast majority of Israeli citizens, including the Israelis living in Jerusalem itself, vote with their feet and stay away from the events of the Jerusalem Day, rightly considering them as a nuisance rather than a holiday.

Oops — it wasn’t Hamas. It was “Gush Shalom,” which means “peace bloc,” an Israeli organization founded by 87-year-old Uri Avnery, the extremist’s extremist, in 1993 to oppose “the repressive measures introduced by the new Labor party government headed by Yitzhak Rabin.”

Avnery has an interesting history. He came to Israel with his family from Germany in 1933, and was a member of the Etzel (“Irgun”) from 1938-42, fought and was seriously wounded in the War of Independence. It was pretty much all leftward after that.

Uri Avnery meets with Arafat in Beirut, 1982

Uri Avnery meets with Arafat in Beirut, 1982, in violation of Israeli law.

Avnery’s Gush Shalom calls for an end to ‘occupation’, removal of all settlements, recognition of a Palestinian ‘right of return’ (somehow in a way which will be harmless to Israel), transfer of all of eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, to the Arabs, etc. It often joins anti-Israel demonstrations, like the weekly riots at Bili’in.

Avnery has clearly devoted his life to his cause, which today seems to be very close to the Palestinian cause — although he seems to think it doesn’t contradict the continued existence of Israel, even the continuation of Jewish lives in Israel. It’s strange.


Before independence, eastern Jerusalem had numerous Jewish neighborhoods, including the Jewish Quarter of the old city, as well as mixed areas. All Jews living in them were expelled at gunpoint by Jordanian troops in 1948. Mahmoud Abbas declared last week that there will be no “Israeli presence” civilian or military in the Palestinian state; in December 2010, he was even more specific, saying,

We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it.

Some have insisted that this isn’t a description of a racist state because he said ‘Israelis’ and not ‘Jews’. But given that he considers Arab citizens of Israel ‘Palestinians’, it’s easy to see what he means: he wants to re-institute the Jew-free Jerusalem of the Jordanian period. Do you think they will allow us to visit the kotel [Western Wall]? I doubt it.


Here’s some more Arab wisdom about Jerusalem from Abbas Zaki, former PLO Ambassador to Lebanon:

With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward.

Pay attention.

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One Response to “Random notes on Jerusalem Day”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    One of the great most frequently unmentioned ironies of Israel’s control over the Temple Mount area is that freedom of worship is denied there to Jews. The late Rabbi Shlomo Goren Z”ts”l suggested that a synagogue be established in the area of the Temple Mount halachically permitted for Jews to go on. This suggestion was rejected by Moshe Dayan for security reasons, the fear of uniting the Islamic world against us. Another irony is that what has happened in the past forty- four years is that despite all of our efforts the conflict has been ‘Islamacized’ and is no longer simply or even primarily the ‘Arab- Israeli conflict’.
    The truth is Israeli governments have been in an almost impossible situation in regard to the Temple Mount. What could have been done in June and July of 1967 cannot be done now without creating a global outcry. In fact as I understand small group of Jews are now allowed with special permission to enter the Temple Mount area. This is far from true religious freedom, access of all faiths to the Holy Places.
    We are paradoxically responsible for ‘order and peace’ in our most holy place but cannot ourselves worship there.
    The Kotel area has become the substitute, and that does have a thriving Jewish presence and religious life, however problematic in other ways.
    Moreover despite the unsatisfactory quality of the present situation a transferring of authority to any other body would probably make it much worse.
    The victory of 1967 was a victory, but alas an incomplete and subsequently problematic one.