שירת שלום

Song of Peace


If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem by Rabbi David Degani

22 May 2017 6:32 PM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)

On May 24th this year, the 28th day of Iyar, Jewish people all over the world celebrate the Hebrew date of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the city of Jerusalem. The actual secular date  was June 7, 1967.

 As the UN  wants to force Israel to give the city of David (Old Jerusalem) to the Arabs, it is important to remember that except for the times when Jerusalem was conquered by foreign occupiers who restricted  the Jews from living there (Byzantines, Crusaders, Ottoman empire etc..) , Jews were always the majority of the population in the city. It is also important to remember that any non Jew who is freely residing in the city today  is in fact a descendant  of foreign occupiers.

During the 15th -18th  centuries,  the Ottoman empire, like the many occupiers before it, prohibited  Jews  from moving into Jerusalem.  The Jewish population, therefore, dwindled significantly. However, beginning in the early1800’s Jews regained majority status in the city until 1948.  In May of 1948 the Jews were brutally forced out of the city through starvation by the Jordanian army, with the generous help of the British who supplied the Jordanians with heavy artillery, ammunition and advisers.

But of course, our connection to Jerusalem goes way beyond being the majority population of the city. The Jewish spiritual bond to Jerusalem is so strong that Jerusalem is in fact Judaism itself.  It is us, our collective soul. Taking Jerusalem away is removing our soul from our body.    

I remember once I conducted a marriage ceremony for an Orthodox family. The excitement, love and happiness was clearly visible on the faces of the bride and groom. Nothing else mattered to them as they were standing there under the chuppah. At the end I asked the groom to break the glass, as tradition dictates. The groom, who no doubt was thinking of nothing else but his bride got ready to break the glass. But first he did something which has been traditional in Jewish weddings for many centuries. He pulled out a small prayer book and to the teary eyes of some of the guests he read the following psalm, strong and loud:  

  "If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem let my right hand forget her cunning, Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I forget Thee, if I set not Jerusalem above my greatest Joy" Only then did he go ahead and break the glass.

I also remember one of the most important days in modern history well. It was June 7th, the 28th day of Iyar 1967. In the early afternoon Israeli paratroopers broke into the old city running like madmen to the Kotel while Jordanian snipers were still positioned on rooftops. Running with them was a reporter from “Kol Israel” “The Voice of Israel.” We did not have Israeli TV yet so the entire country gathered around their radios to listen.  

It is about a fifteen minute run between the Lions gate, the western gate of the old city wall, from which the paratroopers broke into the city to the Kotel. We could hear the chaos around the reporter as the war was still going on around him and as 19 year old paratroopers who never saw the old city, were desperately trying to locate the wall. 

Then there was an eerie silence for a few seconds. The reporter could not talk. All we could hear was his quiet crying. All he could say was "I am not a religious man but....." and he could not finish his sentence. He was at the Kotel.

For the next few minutes all we could hear were the paratroopers singing "Yerushalayim shel Zahav" "Jerusalem of Gold" which they had been taught a few day earlier. Rabbi Goren Z"L  the chief military rabbi keep on sounding the Shofar on and on and on...    

The entire country was sobbing around the radios. Even as a young kid at the time I understood that I was experiencing what countless generations before me were so desperately praying. What a privilege it was to be a part of those electrifying moments. 

On June 7th 1967,  50 years ago, our heart was returned back to our chest. Our soul is back in our body. No more taking it away from us. Ever!     

Rabbi David


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