Yom Yerushalayim is upon us. More than just a celebration of military conquest, this day holds so much significance for our nation. A city unlike any other, King David describes Jerusalem in Tehillim as an ir she’chubrah lah yachdav – as a city that is joined together. Based on this verse, the Yerushalmi in Bava Kamma explains that Jerusalem is a city she’mechaberet zeh lazeh – a city that joins people together. Indeed, it is the unifying nature of this holiest of cities that I reflect on when I say Hallel at this time each year.
King David could have easily made Hebron the capital city. After all, the entire nation came to David to pledge their allegiance to him in Hebron, and Hebron was the center of King David’s home tribe of Yehudah. Nonetheless, Kind David makes a significant and clearly deliberate decision to immediately capture Jerusalem and establish it as the capital city of his nation. Rather than elevate the city of Hebron, it seems that King David calculated that to truly unite his people, he needed to select a city that was partly in the tribe of Binyamin and partly in the tribe of Yehudah. He needed to select a city that would be lo nitchalkah lashevatim; that would be a national city, not the exclusive jurisdiction of any one tribe. In essence, through this action, King David created a model for the entire nation of Israel. He demonstrated in no uncertain terms the critical importance of our national unity. More specifically, I believe that Kind David’s actions convey a message that is as true today as it was in his time: Jerusalem must belong to all of us, and we to it.
Forty-nine years ago, the entire Jewish nation was blessed to witness the modern liberation of our capital city. The impact of this miraculous event cannot be overstated. True to the city’s biblical history, its modern day conquest had a newly unifying impact on a newly re-unified nation.
Upon witnessing the moment that Israeli troops breached the Old City walls in 1967, Eli Landau, a non-Torah observant journalist who accompanied the forces, wrote:
"We heard the command given to our forces to enter the Old City. Even in the tumult of battle, [Motta Gur, commander of the Paratrooper Division] explained to his men who were about to breach the city walls the extraordinary nature of the moment. He climbed onto the front of the half-track in order to be first, always first, to lead the way to the Lions’ Gate. 'Har Ha-Bayit be-yadenu,' [Motta Gur triumphantly announced] - 'The Temple Mount is in our hands!' Motta did not say: 'The Temple Mount is in my hands!' There, on the white plaza, Motta chose not to be first, alone, but rather to be there together with everybody else. Motta was not only an officer; he was a friend and a partner, he was an agent. With his three historic words, Motta brought together the shared, unifying experience of those paratroopers who were privileged to participate in the event, of those paratroopers who did not enjoy that privilege, and of all Jews throughout the world."
The conquest of Jerusalem was not simply a conquest of a city like any other. Forty-nine years ago, this miraculous conquest transformed a young band of Zionists into a proud and strong nation. Emerging from the ashes of war, we’d had the audacity to attempt the Zionist experiment, all the while not certain if we would, if we could, possibly succeed. Forty-nine years ago, Jews from all across the religious spectrum witnessed the liberation of Jerusalem as a rallying cry - we were surviving, we were thriving, and we were together, strengthened in our city, as King David endeavored for us to be. The Zionist experiment was alive and vibrant, and together, we were here to stay.
When we say Hallel today, let us reflect and bask in the joy that King David’s description of Jerusalem is alive and well even in our days.