Today is Yom Yerushalayim- Jerusalem Day. Fifty-six years ago
today, Israeli forces entered the Old City of Jerusalem. For the first time in
2000 years, the Holy City of Jerusalem fell under Jewish sovereignty. Here is how it happened:
When the 6-day war broke out in 1967, Israel was attacked
from all sides. Israelis truly did not know whether the country would survive.
Mass graves were dug in Tel Aviv for 14,000 people. It was nothing short of
miraculous that Israel’s military prevailed in each and every place. Then it
was time for the battle of Jerusalem.
In 1948 Jerusalem was declared an international city by the
United Nations. It was to be a free city, open to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
However, the country of Jordan conquered the city, expelled all of its Jewish
residents, destroyed all of the synagogues and places of Jewish study in the
old city, and forbid Jews to live there or enter. For 19 years Jordanian
snipers used the walls of the old city to target Jewish residents of West
Jerusalem. It was now time to address this grave injustice. Israeli soldiers
were poised to mount an assault on the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by a wall. There are
seven gates through which one can enter. Nobody knew through which gate the
soldiers would come through. So, each gate came before God to plead that the
soldiers should enter through them.
The Jaffa Gate came before God: “I have two roads that begin
at my gate. One of them leads to Hevron, the burial place of Abraham and Sarah,
Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. The other leads to Jaffa, from where Jonah fled
from God and was swallowed by the whale. I am the worthiest gate through which
the soldiers should enter!”
The Gate of Shechem came before God: “When the people of Israel were about to cross
the border into Canaan, Moses commanded that some tribes stand on Mount Gerizim
as the people were being blessed, and some tribes stand on Mount Eval while the
people were being cursed. The road to Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval begins at my
gate. All of the curses have been fulfilled; now it is time for the blessings.
The Zion Gate said: “I am the gate after whom the holy city
is named – Zion. Let the Israeli soldiers enter the Old City through me!”
The Dung Gate said: “Through me generation after generation
threw their refuse and I said, “The trash of Jerusalem is more precious than
all the jewels of the rest of the world!” When, if not now, will you fulfill
the Biblical verse of the Psalms: Me-ashpot Yarim Evyon – God lifts the
poor out of the dust/the needy from the rubbish heap/ and sits them with the
powerful/the powerful of His people.”
The Gate of Flowers said, “When the soldiers pass through me
I will pluck my flowers and crown their heads with garlands.”
The Gate of Mercy cried, “It was through me that, according
to Jewish lore, the Shechinah, God’s presence, would return to Jerusalem. The
enemies of the Jews sealed me up in order to prevent this. Isn’t it fitting that
the Jewish people should return through me?”
Only the Lion Gate was silent, until they urged her to step
“I see how the youth of Israel are falling by the fire of our
enemies. Come through whichever gate you will come but let not one more soldier
The Kadosh Barukh Hu said, “Since the Lions Gate did not boast
of its value but was more concerned about the lives of the soldiers, I have
decided that the army of Israel will enter the Old City through this gate. Those
who are as courageous as lions will enter through the Lions Gate!
No sooner had those words been uttered that the soldiers of
Israel broke through the Lions Gate and headed to the Western Wall.
(This midrash was written by Yitzchak Navon, the fifth President
of the State of Israel)