Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Forty-seven years ago today on the Jewish calendar the city of Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish rule for the first time in almost 2000 years. In the midst of the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli forces broke through into the Old City of Jerusalem and Motti Gur, the commander of the Israeli Paratroopers who entered the City, proclaimed to Jews throughout the world that the Temple Mount was once more in Jewish hands. These words became the clarion call for Jerusalem’s reunification and annexation as part of the State of Israel.
Today, the liberation day is recognized as Jerusalem Day, but as a holiday it is largely ignored by most Israelis and as well as by Jews throughout the world. Unlike Israel’s Independence Day which occurred was commemorated approximately three weeks ago and is celebrated by Israelis and Jews throughout the world—except by the haredim–, the day of the liberation of Jerusalem is largely acknowledged largely only by the religious Zionists or modern Orthodox communities in Israel and the Diaspora. For the secular as well as the haredim this day passes as inconsequential.
Not to suggest that secular Israelis do not support and recognize Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem as important and significant, a day of celebration commemorating its re-unification just does not fit into their schema. As the years have passed its importance has declined as a holiday; not the fact of its unification. This is largely because of the specific nature of Jerusalem’s religious character among religious Zionists.
It is worth considering if the Israelis and Palestinians eventually work out an acceptable arrangement for the governance of Jerusalem, whether this day will even maintain the holiday spirit it currently sustains even among religious Zionists. For Israeli politicians today, it is a way to score points either among their supporters or against the Palestinians and all Muslims. If Jerusalem were a settled issue the day of its re-unification would probably become merely a fact in a text book and not a holiday; even for religious Zionists.
At the same time, for the ultra-Orthodox community, this day has neither any religious or political significance. The non-Zionist groups largely demonstrate no acknowledgement of either Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) nor Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). For them, poignantly, these are not celebratory days of any sort.