Monthly Archives: May 2017

Why Jerusalem Day Is Important For Jews

                  

Last night and today Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim, as its called in Hebrew. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this momentous day.

Just why are they celebrating and why should Jews everywhere celebrate the day? This day marks the high point of the Six Day War, in 1967, when Israeli soldiers liberated eastern Jerusalem and the Old City and were finally able to see, touch and pray at the Western Wall, the Kotel.

Why is this important? Tuesday of this week Trump paid respects to the holiest site in Jerusalem by praying there. Prior to this, during the illegal Jordanian occupation  of the eastern half of Jerusalem (from 1948-1967). Jews were expelled from the area and were barred from praying at the Wall. Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs were also off limits. Jerusalem was a divided city, divided in half by a concrete wall topped by barbed wire. Jordanian snippers regularly fired into Western Jerusalem. As a result of the Six Day War, Israel regained control of all of Jerusalem. It reunified the city and extended Israeli law to all its parts. It also guaranteed freedom of worship and protection of the holy sites of all religions.

Is this the only reason the Six Day war is important? Not all all. As a result of the war, Israel more than tripled the size of the area under its jurisdiction, from 8,000 to 26,000 square miles, about the size of New Jersey. Israel captured the SInai (which it later returned to Egypt), the Golan Heights (from Syria), the Gaza Strip (which was controlled by Egypt) and from which Israel withdrew its forces and expelled its citizens in 2005, and the West Bank.

It was a momentous miraculous victory. Three armies- Egypt, Jordan and Syria were massed to attack Israel. Frenzied mobs called for its destruction. The United Nations peacekeeping force assigned to Sinai to keep peace between Egypt and Israel was forced to leave by the Egyptians. Israel stood alone against three armies. A victory by those forces would have, Heaven forbid, resulted in the elimination of the Jewish State. This was one war Israel had to win. And win it did, but the victory came at a high cost. Israel lost twice as many men in proportion to its population as the United States lost in its eight year war in Vietnam.

And what if Israel had won, but had not captured any territory. Well, the Golan Heights would have remained under Syrian control. That means that Israel would have been infested with Hezbollah and ISIS fighters. Jerusalem would have remained a divided city, with the Old City of Jerusalem remaining under Jordanian control. Jews would have been barred from the Wall and from living in East Jerusalem. Israel would, in fact, have been hard pressed to remain stable and safe. Without ’67, Israel’s enemies would be demanding their rights to Tel Avi, Haifa and of course the western part of Jerusalem. The ’67 war turned Israel into a viable nation.

Why is a united Jerusalem important to all Jews? Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel, the land of the Jews. It was Israel’s capital thousands of years ago and has never been the capital of any other country. It is the heart and soul of Israel. Jerusalem cannot be divided. Asking Israel to do so, is not only against Israel’s interests, but also against the world’s interests. Israel safeguards all holy places and allows freedom of access to all. In contrast, the Jordanians who control the Temple Mount refuse to let Jews even mumble a prayer on the Mount, but they let their children play sports on the plaza. So much for its holiness. Control of the holy places by the Palestinians, or even international forces which can be expelled by the host country, will not ensure freedom of access to all. Rachel’s Tomb, which is in Bethlehem, is now covered by concrete and barred wire to ensure the safety of its visitors. The Tomb of Joseph in Nablus is not safe for Jews to visit. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron requires an armed Israeli presence to protect worshippers. In short, only Israel guarantees the safety of Holy Places under its rule. Furthermore, it would not take long for Hamas to take control of any area ceded to the Palestinians  by Israel. Those would be dangerous times for Israel and its neighbors.

But there’s more. In order for Israel to remain viable, it needs to have defensible borders. It’s neighbors have waged war against it and while Israel has signed peace treaties with some, others are waiting to pounce on it. And Israel must remain strong, very strong. Israel is the last place of refuge for Jews. As anti semitism and terror raise their ugly heads in all parts of the world, Jews now have place of refuge, a place where they can live openly and freely as Jews and where all can pray at the holiest of all synagogues. Those are real reasons to celebrate.

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Categories: Anti Semitism, Hamas, Israel, Jerusalem, Jerusalem Day, Middle East, Politics, Pro Israel Post, religious freedom, Terrorism, Yom Yerushalayim | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freedom Is Not Free- Remembering The Fallen Heroes

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Israel will be 69 years old on  the night of May 1, 2017.

Those 69 years have been filled with both joy and sorrow. Israel has fought in 8 wars and military operations since its founding in 1948. Over 23,000 soldiers have been killed as a result of these operations and over 3,000 civilians have lost their lives due to terrorist attacks.

In a country as small as Israel (the most recent survey showed that Israel has about 8.7 million people), almost everyone has either had a family member killed or injured, or knows someone who was so affected.  

Therefore, unlike most Americans today, Israel takes Memorial Day very seriously.  

In 1968, The United States Congress changed the date of Memorial Day, which was originally May 30, to the last Monday in May to create a three day weekend. This has diluted the purpose of the day. On Memorial Day in the United States, the U.S. flag is lowered to half staff until noon. Americans who have lost family members or friends in the various wars and conflicts in which the United States has been engaged visit cemeteries to pay tribute to the fallen. Many attend Memorial Day parades which feature veterans and members of the various Armed Forces. There is also a National Memorial Day Concert which takes place on the lawn of the United States Capitol.

However, for most Americans the Memorial Day weekend means the unofficial start of the summer season, the Indy 500, NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, The Memorial Tournament golf event, the final of the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship, and, of course, Memorial Day Sales and barbecues.

In 2000, perhaps in response to the dilution of the meaning of the day, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking people to stop and remember the fallen at 3:00 P.M on Memorial Day Monday. To mark the Moment, Major League Baseball games halt, Amtrak train whistles sound across the country, and other organisations do what they can to remind Americans to observe the Moment.

For Israel, the pain of the loss of the fallen is very fresh. This year another 97 people were added to that roster of heroes. There are over 9,000 bereaved parents in Israel, almost 5,000 widows and close to 2,000 orphans under the age of 30, all of whom lost a family member fighting for Israel’s right to exist. This number does not include the relatives and friends of the over 3,000 civilians killed by terrorists.

Israel understands all too well the debt of gratitude it owes to its soldiers and its heroes who sacrificed their lives so that Israel could exist and be free. Therefore, Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, is taken very seriously.

It officially begins with a one minute siren, heard throughout the country, at 8 P.M., during which the entire nation stands still for one minute. Even traffic is halted. This is followed by an official State Ceremony at the Western Wall (the Kotel) in Jerusalem and other gatherings and services throughout the country. (Israelis take this moment so seriously that yesterday, Sunday,  a group of Israelis on a flight from Marrakesh to Munich stood silently for one minute  at 8 P.M.)

For the next 24 hours, all theatres, cinemas, nightclubs, bars, etc. are closed. Radio and television station broadcast programs portraying the lives and heroic deeds of fallen soldiers and play melancholy music which conveys the mood of the day.

A second memorial siren, this one lasting for two minutes, is sounded at 11 A.M. the next morning, marking the beginning of the public recitation of prayers in the military cemeteries throughout the country. The official service is held at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. Flags are lowered to half staff, special memorial prayers are recited, government officials speak, and a wreath is laid. The ceremony usually concludes with a military gun salute.

At 1PM another national service takes place at Mt. Herzl, this one honoring the memories of those felled by terrorist acts.

This year over 1.5 million Israelis are expected to pay their respects at the graves of those killed in Israel’s struggles.

Schools are open, but almost every high school in Israel has a “memorial corner” with the pictures of the school’s graduates who were killed defending the State. Some high schools organize their own Yom Hazikaron ceremonies and invite the families of the fallen graduates to participate.

Students wear white shirts and blue pants, or skirts, to school that day and soldiers wear their uniforms to the military cemeteries.

A few minutes after sundown, when Memorial day ends, the official switch from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, takes place. In a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the flag is raised from half staff to the top of the pole. The president of Israel then delivers a speech of congratulations, and soldiers representing the Army, Navy, and Air Force parade with their flags. This is followed by a torch lighting ceremony, marking the country’s achievements, Many municipalities have their own flag ceremony in which students march with the Israeli flag.

Israelis celebrate Independence Day in a number of ways. Many cities have nighttime activities, fireworks and free concerts. Many spend the night singing Israeli songs and dancing Israeli folk dances. During the day, many families go on hikes and picnics. Others barbeque at home or with family and friends.  Army camps are open to the public and many museums and cultural institutions offer free admission and programs. The day concludes with the granting of the Israeli Prize to individuals who have made unique contributions to Israel’s culture, science, arts and humanities.

The juxtaposition of these two very disparate days and moods is both very moving and meaningful. It helps us realise that freedom is not free. There is a high price to pay and we should be eternally grateful to those who pay it.

Let us  hope that no additional names will be added to the list of the fallen and that we will finally be able to live together in peace.

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Categories: Israel, Israel Independence Day, Israel Memorial Day Yom Hazikaron, It Happened In Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Jewish Holidays, Yom Haatzmaut, Yom Hazikaron | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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