Next week we will celebrate the 3,319th anniversary of the receiving of the Torah. Tonight we are celebrating 41 years since the reunification of Jerusalem. It is always interesting to contrast the differences in the way in which we celebrate what are probably the oldest and the newest events of national significance to the Jewish people. Both are central and relevant to our Jewish identity on a daily basis, and both are sadly neglected by so many of our own people. Shavuot is sometimes called the “forgotten chag” and many Jews would hardly be aware that it is Yom Yerushaliem today.
The only mention in the Maccabean about Yom Yerushaliem was an excellent Dvar Torah in the Yeshiva column. There is only one event that is happening to mark the occasion in Perth, and that is a celebration at Dianella Shule. Yesterday the Bnei Akiva shaliach gave a drasha about the sad reality that Yom Yerushaliem is associated with religous zionism only, and outside the Mizrachi community is not marked with the same sense of significance.
I also saw some wonderful words on this in a column by Rabbi Beryl Wein. He was contrasting Israel’s observance of national occasions with Memorial Day in the USA. He writes as follows:
This presented to me in jarring contrast to the day of remembrance in Israel which is very serious, special and not a day of levity and leisure at all.
I feel that even with the semi-secular tone of the memorial day that has evolved here in Israel â€“ with sirens, military salutes, flower wreaths, and predictable platitudes from politicians – there is a traditionalreligious Jewish motif that governs the day. It is the presence of that spirit of tradition, of how to conduct memorials and remembrances, that gives the Israeli memorial day its unique and different character. Everything here in Israel seems to be special.
Jewish tradition has developed a system of memory and remembrance for its martyrs and heroes. It is understated and without the requirement of speeches. It encourages inner analysis and improvmernt, thought and understanding. It emphasizes the fragility of life and the uncertainty of secutity. It highlights the interdependence of Jews one upon another. It does not unduly glorify the art of war but it does not shirk from realizing its omnipresence and effects in Jewish history.
Judaism remembers people, admires sacrifice and cherishes life. In our time – for the first time in millennia â€“ Israel has the ability to defend itself against vicious enemies. Throughout the long exile of Israel, only in rare instances were Jews anything but defenseless martyrs. So, Jews had no choice but to have a muted memorial day and service. And, this muted response governed Jewish remembrance ceremonies. This dovetailed exactly with the above described concepts of Jewish traditional mourning and memory.
Even today when we are blesesd with a courageous and successful army that gives us the ability to defend ourselves from our enemies, the day of remembrance for our fallen soldiers is much more serious, somber and perhaps more meaningful. I see the gradual disappearance of military parades here in Israel on special national days and a return to a more traditional way of marking these days of remembrance.
When reflecting on the six day war, it is important to remember just what the feeling was in the lead up to this assault on Israel. Many did not give Israel a chance. Most thought that this would be the end of the State and were resigned to the reality of Israel’s military strength being unable to match that of its enemies on multiple fronts. However Israel not only won a war it didn’t start, but it also won back the City of Jerusalem, the focal point of the Jewish people and the place of Jewish sovreignty. The Temple Mount is the place where G-d connects the spiritual and physical worlds, and it is the place that the Jewish people will rededicate to fulfil its mission as a light to the nations.
There is one thing the Jewish people have that is lacking from modern society, and that is memory. Memory of history, memory of morality, and memory of our covenant with G-d. Jerusalem represents all of this, and for that reason it is incumbent on us to celebrate the reunification of our City, which is without doubt the modern miracle of our time.