50 Years & Counting…


The date was June 7th, 1967. The Muslim nations surrounding Israel had united to finally wipe the Jewish state off the map once and for all. The Six Day War had been going strong for one day already and the Jordanian military had begun their participation in the war by opening fire on civilian targets in Israel. In the chaos, a miracle happened: Israel liberated Jerusalem (and the whole of Judea and Samaria by the end of the war) from the Jordanian occupiers and for the first time in 19 years, Jerusalem was no longer a divided city.

Immediately upon the liberation of the city, Israel’s Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, made the famous promise to extend full religious freedom and rights to all of “our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens.” His promise came as a welcome change from the realities faced by Israeli Arabs, Druze and Jews in the preceding 19 years in which no Israelis were permitted entrance to the Temple Mount, not even Israeli Muslims.

For the first time since the re-establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, democracy and freedom of religion could be enjoyed throughout the Holy City. Although this newfound freedom came at the heels of a war in which Jordan had been an aggressor against Israel, Israel gave the Jordanian-funded Islamic Waqf “religious sovereignty” over the Temple Mount.

Since the Six-Day War and Israel’s liberation of Jerusalem, the Muslim powers in the world have unceasingly sought to create a sense in the international community that the Muslim shrine and mosque that sit upon the Temple Mount, while under Israeli sovereignty, are endangered “world heritage” sites. History paints a different picture. While the IDF was forced to enter the Al Aqsa Mosque during the Second Intifada, Israel has done a fairly good job of protecting the site and in no way harming it. Furthermore, Israeli Muslims were prohibited from access to the Temple Mount during the Jordanian occupation, but are granted full freedom of access to the Temple Mount today. That is to say, Israel permits an even greater range of Muslims to access the Temple Mount than were granted access during the Jordanian occupation.

The Jordanian occupiers treated Jerusalem much differently than Israel has. Within a short time of occupying East Jerusalem in the 1948 war, Jordan had destroyed many Jewish synagogues, turning a number of them into stables and chicken coops. The Jordanian occupiers also took Jewish gravestones and used them as paving stones and building materials. While Jordan forced all Jews out of the Judea and Samaria region during the Jordanian occupation refusing entry to Jewish holy sites in Judea and Samaria, Israel has refused to engage in such acts of ethnic cleansing or religious oppression.

Israel welcomes the diversity of people who call Israel its home, including Arabs even though it has been Arab nations that have come so strongly against Israel these past many decades. Since Israel put an end to the Jordanian occupation, Israel has been committed to the full protection of all sites considered holy in Israel and to conferring freedom of religion upon all within its borders. I would argue that now that Israel has sovereignty in Jerusalem, the sites in Jerusalem significant to people of various religions are much safer than any time in the past.

There has been no city more important to Jews throughout history than the city of Jerusalem. Although the Jews have now been exiled from the land of Israel multiple times throughout history, Jerusalem has always remained the primary place to which the Jewish people have returned time and time again to worship the God of Israel.

After the Babylonian Exile, about 2,500 years ago, one of the first things the returning Jews did when they got back to Israel was to restore temple worship in Jerusalem (Ezra 2:68 & 3:1–13). About 350 years later after the Greeks had occupied the land of Israel for some time, the Jews restored Jewish sovereignty in the city in the Maccabean revolt (which is celebrated during Hanukkah). Again some time later, during the Roman occupation, Jewish sovereignty was restored for a short time in Jerusalem before the Romans took it back and banned the Jews from Jerusalem until the Roman occupation was ended a few hundred years later.

The treatment of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount has been of utmost concern to the Jewish people throughout history since long before the Muslim conquest of the city. Although the city has been taken from the Jews multiple times throughout history, it has always returned to being the capital of the Jewish state of Israel. In fact, Jerusalem has never been the capital of any nation other than Israel.

Throughout the past two thousand years, stepping on and crushing a glass cup during Jewish wedding ceremonies has been a reminder of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Every week in synagogue for hundreds of years, members have stood during the Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday evening Sabbath) prayers to recite a special prayer that is said while facing Jerusalem. Without Jerusalem (or Judea for that matter), there are no Jews.

After the Romans ended the Bar Kokhba revolt 1,900 years ago, the Jews were banned from entering Jerusalem except for one day a year, the day on which they mourned the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. Only on that day were Jews permitted to visit the Western Wall as they mourned the loss of the Temple. Because the only time Jews were seen at the wall happened to be a day when they were “wailing” as they mourned, the Western Wall came to be known by non-Jews as “the Wailing Wall.” For Jews, however, the Western Wall has always been the Western Wall—a location that, in times when Jews were forbidden by occupying powers from being on the Temple Mount, served as the closest location to the Holy of Holies.

The Western Wall is much more than a place where the Jewish people mourn (one day a year) because of the destruction of the Temple. Jews pray daily at the Western Wall and celebrate joyful occasions such as Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and weddings by dedicating a part of the celebrations to praying at the Western Wall.

Isaiah the prophet tells of a time when the peace of Jerusalem will be such that:

“They will not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there will be a Root of Jesse, who will stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles will seek Him, and His resting place will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:9–10)

There is coming a time when there will be total peace in this city in which, already in my time, I am privileged to live and enjoy independence. On Jerusalem Day, there will be many prayers prayed in this city, as well as a parade and dancing and flag twirling as Israel celebrates 50 years since the liberation of Jerusalem from the Jordanian occupation. I am confident that there is coming a day when the new Jerusalem will descend and a voice will be heard in this city saying:

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)

Share this Post