June 2, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
Beginning at sundown on Saturday, June 4 – the 28th day of the month of Iyar on the Jewish calendar – Israelis and Jews around the world will celebrate Jerusalem Day, commemorating the liberation of the Holy City in 1967.
That year, Israel had been subject to numerous threats and abuses from her neighbors. In May, Egypt blocked the straits of Tiran, stopping all shipping in and out of the Israeli port of Eilat. The allied forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon stood at Israel’s borders. Arab leaders made it clear that they intended to destroy Israel: The Iraqi president publicly declared that “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified,” while President Nasser of Egypt said bluntly, “Welcome! We are ready for war!”
Israel faced a choice: wait for an invasion, or fight back in self-defense. She chose to fight back. The resulting battle – the Six Day War – was a quick and stunning victory for Israel that led to the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli rule.
There are few events in modern Jewish history more stirring. On radio recordings from that day, you can hear the Israel Defense Forces fighting their way into the Old City, followed by commander Mordechai “Motta” Gur shouting with breathless excitement, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” The long-awaited moment had finally come – the Jewish people had reclaimed our holy city.
Today Jerusalem remains in Jewish hands, but is still under threat – and not just by terrorism, though that threat is ever-present. Most nations, including the U.S., still do not recognize it as the capital of Israel. International governing bodies undermine the Jewish connection to Jerusalem through resolutions such as the recent one enacted by UNESCO that denies any Jewish connection to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. Some activists believe Jerusalem should be divided equally between Israeli and Palestinian rule. These proposals would deny the biblical and historic claims of Israel to this city that we know as the united and undivided capital of the Jewish state.
Teddy Kollek, who held the office of mayor of Jerusalem for an unprecedented six terms, summed up the Jewish connection to Jerusalem beautifully: “Throughout centuries of exile, Jerusalem remained alive in the hearts of Jews everywhere as the focal point of Jewish history, the symbol of ancient glory, spiritual fulfillment, and modern renewal. This heart and soul of the Jewish people engenders the thought that if you want one simple word to symbolize all of Jewish history, that word would be ‘Jerusalem.’”
Indeed, the psalmist said, “If I forget you O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” As we do every year at this time, let us resolve never to forget this ancient, holy city, sacred to Jews and Christians alike – the capital of Jewish life and culture for over 3,000 years.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President