We, the Jewish People, are a miracle. That we were dispersed from our Land 2,000 years ago and then returned is a one-time happening that defies all historical precedents and all logical understanding.
That the Land has flourished when farmed by Jews, in a way that it simply does not when others are in control, is miraculous. There is a mystical connection between the Land and the Jews.
That we have won all of our wars in the Land, starting with the War of Independence – fought against incredible odds – is a miracle.
The Six Day War of 1967 was a miracle of special note. It was on June 7th, the third day of the war, that we liberated eastern Jerusalem, which had been occupied by Jordan; we secured control of the Kotel and Har Habayit (the Temple Mount).
Members of the 55th Paratroopers Brigade entered the Old City via the Lions Gate. They did so without artillery backup so as to avoid unnecessary damage to the ancient walls.
Click on the picture to see a video of the liberation.
Rabbi Shlomo Goren recited the Shehechiyanu (prayer of gratitude for reaching that day), said a memorial prayer for those soldiers who had died fighting during this battle, and blew the shofar.
And of course there were those ever famous words of Mota Gur, Commander of the 55th Paratroopers Brigade that liberated the Mount: “Har Habayit beyadenu!” [the Temple Mount is in our hands].
This is what we celebrate every year on Yom Yerushalayim. Eastern and western Jerusalem were re-united, one city, the capital of a sovereign Israel.
But what lingers is the painful awareness that Har Habayit is not fully in our hands. Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, whatever his intentions, surrendered a significant part of the control of the Mount almost immediately after Israel had liberated it. From my perspective a shocking thing to have done, after millennia of Jewish yearning.
You see him here, center, with Yitzhak Rabin, Chief of Staff to the right and Jerusalem Commander Uzi Narkis to the left, as they entered the Old City via the Lions Gate.
The understanding Dayan reached with the Jordanian Wakf – which is at the heart of what is referred to as the “status quo” – accorded day-to-day administration of the Mount to the Wakf, although technically sovereignty remained with Israel, Israel police had authority on the Temple Mount, and Israeli law applied. Muslims could pray, Jews could only visit.
Dayan may have had some sort of notion of good-will sharing of the Mount with the Muslim Arabs. What they had in mind was something very different. Over the years the “status quo” has consistently been eroded in a manner that accords the Muslims more and Jews less.
It has been clear in recent years that it is the intention of Muslim Arabs – whether Jordan or the PA – to wrest control of the Mount from the Jews entirely. There are claims that it belongs exclusively to them, charges that Jewish presence defiles the site. Other Muslim nations, such as Turkey, are also bidding for some control or influence over the Mount.
This is a politically wrought situation that has a religious underpinning: The Muslim Arab world has never accepted the idea of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. The Temple Mount is at the heart of an attempt to delegitimize Israel. For if there truly were Temples on the Mount, then the Jewish claim has primacy. We have been seeing growing Arab unrest, replete with riots, on the Mount.
This is a fight that Israel absolutely cannot afford to lose.
And this background leads directly to what happened yesterday (Sunday) on Yom Yerushalayim.
Last year the Flag Parade was cancelled by then-prime minister Netanyahu after Hamas launched a rocket from Gaza towards Jerusalem. This year, there was considerable tension with regard to plans for the March to go through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter to get to the Kotel. Local Arabs declared the prospect offensive. Hamas ratchetted up its threats to again launch rockets if we went ahead, and there was great concern about violence in the mixed cities.
It must be noted that the tradition of holding a flag parade on Yom Yerushalayim that entered the Old City via the Damascus Gate, at a minimum, goes back more than 30 years.
According to Jeffrey Woolf, professor or Talmud at Bar-Ilan University, it actually goes back much further:
“There is a very long-standing tradition for hundreds of years, possibly for millennia, of walking around and encountering the various gates of Jerusalem and expressing one’s love for Jerusalem. People would come from all over the world on pilgrimage, walk and say prayers at every single gate…”
The question that hung in the air, then, was one of whether the government would stand strong and go ahead. The signs were positive, because messages had been sent via intermediaries to Hamas, security forces by the thousands were being deploy in Jerusalem and the mixed cities, Iron Dome installations were re-positioned, etc.
And the word now, a day after the celebrations, is that indeed, the government did stand strong, refusing to be intimidated by terrorist threats. The message was one of undeterred Israeli sovereignty.
This is absolutely how it should be – how it MUST be – and whatever else I criticize about our current government, they handled this properly.
It was, first, a matter of refusing to change the route. To have re-routed the parade away from the Damascus Gate (shown above) would have been to acknowledge that Jews have no place in the Muslim areas of Jerusalem, that all of Jerusalem, united, is not accessible to Jews.
But then, it was also a matter of not bowing to terrorist threats. I can only hope and pray that the lesson will truly have been learned by the government, although I feel absolutely no certainty about this. But here is the evidence: stand tough against those making the threats, and the terrorists back off. Appease, make conciliatory moves, and you increase your risk of getting hit.
The day was glorious, from its inception on Saturday night (motzei Shabbat). It provided Israelis in large numbers with a time to rejoice, following one heavy, painful week after another. The turnout was huge, and I have no doubt that it was a statement by Zionist Israelis: ENOUGH! We are here, we are proud, and we are not going away.
At the Kotel Saturday night the largest Israeli flag in the world was unfurled amidst singing and dancing.
Early the next morning, Jews began lining up to go up to Har Habayit. They came singing and dancing. And praying.
The Shalom Jerusalem Foundation of Yehuda Glick has put out some of the clearest video footage of the singing and praying that I have been able to locate. I am not suggesting that you necessarily watch the entire video, which is well over an hour long. See the first couple of minutes for singing of Hallel as the group led by Glick enters the Mount, and another minute or so at minute 53, for singing on the Mount.
My friends, 2,600 Jews went up on the Mount yesterday. An all-time record.
With the praying, there were Jews who prostrated themselves.
Israeli flags were raised on the Mount (but confiscated in short order by the police).
And MK Itamar Ben-Gvir was allowed up, in spite of his being considered a “trouble-maker.” And you know what happened while he was there? Nothing. Another lesson. Arabs yelled at him, and he called back “Am Yisrael Hai!”
Every day on the Mount will not be like yesterday. But it is difficult to believe that the dynamic has not shifted, as Jews have made it clear that we will not be pushed away.
The parade itself was marvelous. I was there, among an estimated 70,000 people who came out to cheer the marchers on.
They ended their parade, 16,000 young people strong, at the Kotel, where there were prayers and singing. See this fantastic wrap-up:
Hamas did not launch a single rocket in the course of the day, although they are saying they can still do so at a time of their choosing. A little weak, after the fact.
Nor were there any major riots. A group of Arab rioters barricaded themselves into Al Aqsa Mosque and threw stones. Some Arabs threw stones in the area of the Damascus Gate; MK Miri Regev had one aimed at her. And there were other altercations. But by and large, the situation was contained by the police. One drone carrying a PLO flag was shot down, in case it was also carrying explosives.
There was one video that came out of an Arab climbing on top of the Mosque and urinating (no joke). A rather strong indication of just how holy they think it is.
Along the way in the Muslim Quarter, there were handfuls of Jews, small in number, who called out “Death to the Arabs.” This is not condoned, and is regrettable. It generates negative PR and provides ammunition for those who seek to criticize the march, charging that it is an event dominated by racists and radicals (which is not the case).
The world is ready to criticize the march as provocative, something that increases tensions. And so another lesson we must learn – perhaps are on the way to learning at long last – is that, as a sovereign state, we must do as we judge proper and not as the world thinks we must do.
It is disappointing, but not surprising, that our Abraham Accords partner, the UAE, leveled criticism, calling for an end to “provocative violations” at the Temple Mount, with maximum restraint to be exhibited by Israel. UAE concern is with Jordanian jurisdiction on the Mount. I do not recall reports of the UAE calling for”restraint” on the part of an inciteful Mahmoud Abbas or of Arab rioters throwing stones from inside the Mosque.
And so we must value this relationship established within the Accords, drawing from it what we can and working to strengthen ties – but remaining ever mindful of its limits.
I want to close here with one additional statement. In the center and center-left here in Israel, and in some portions of the Israeli media, there is a tendency to label those Israelis who seek to claim our rights in the Land – and on the Mount – as “radicals” or “nationalists.” The latter is not a pejorative, but is used as if it were.
But I am here to say that I am a nationalist, and so are all committed Zionists. We are living in a world in which universalism is the accepted norm. Zionists move against that value with insistence on a Jewish State. It is necessary to be forthright about this going forward.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.