YOM YERUSHALAYIM 5776
Israel’s plight seems to be getting worse and worse. Every day, Israel’s enemies try to delegitimize the Jewish State with divestments, boycotts, sanctions and incitement—especially in American universities. The UN is completely biased against Israel. Even Israel’s European friends like France, Britain and Germany recently voted together with Israel’s enemies. And now it looks like President Barak Obama will be supporting the French plan to impose Palestinian demands upon Israel in the name of “peace.”
Is everyone against Israel? No! There are millions and millions of people like you and me who stand with Israel. Just this past Tuesday there was the 1st-ever conference at aimed at combating BDS, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement held at the UN General Assembly! American-Jewish singer and songwriter Matisyahu—who BDS activists tried to have banned last year from a performance at a festival in Spain over his support for Israel—spoke and sung his hit song “Jerusalem,” to cheers and applause.
Ron Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress said: I actually understand the power of BDS. It’s a political movement that makes you think you are standing against tyranny; especially when you are joined by celebrities, rock stars, or your favorite professors, but I wonder if all those people that support BDS have the slightest understanding of what this movement really means. These activists are calling for the destruction of the State of Israel. Make no mistake.
Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice, told the conference that BDS initiatives often violate US non-discrimination laws as well as university policies. He cited recent legal victories against BDS at several universities including the University of Chicago, Loyola, University of Texas, University of Michigan, UCLA and City University of New York.
But most damning of all against the BDS movement is the fact that while it does successfully promote hatred of the Jewish State—and sometimes even hatred of Jews—in practical Israeli terms, it has failed miserably in its stated goal of wounding Israel economically. Bloomberg revealed this week that since the BDS campaign was launched in 2005 foreign investment into Israel has not gone down at all. In fact, it has actually tripled, hitting an all-time high of $285 billion last year.
So let us not throw our arms up in the air crying about Israel, “Woe is unto us.” Let’s have a little faith and celebrate that Gd always has Israel’s back. Let’s celebrate tomorrow. What’s so special about tomorrow? Tomorrow is the 28th day of the month of Iyar, the day 49 years ago, during the 6-Day War, when Jerusalem was reunited in Jewish hands. We finally returned home to the place that King David made our capital 3,000 years ago, to the spot where both Temples had stood. So tomorrow, Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) celebrates the ending of a 2000-year-old yearning.
Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) is a magical word for Jews. It’s pronounced in awe. It conjures up associations and feelings in our ears that no other word does, and that no other nation or religion can remotely experience. To us, Yerushalayim personifies the presence of Gd in our midst, the Shechina. It is the soul of our people. Jerusalem is eternal. It can never die or be destroyed because wherever the Jew settles Jerusalem is alive in his heart.
But this past month, UNESCO—the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization—announced that Jerusalem IS ALL A LIE, that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is not the cite of our Holy Temples but a Muslim holy place that has no connection to the Jewish people. It referred to the Temple mount solely as al-Aksa Mosque/al-Haram al Sharif and to the plaza area by the Kotel not as the Kotel Plaza but as al-Buraq Plaza. This renaming is Orwellian and the sad truth is that much of the world wants to believe it. Thousands of years of Jewish history and yearning are being purposely erased.
Among the countries that voted in favor of this absurd canard is France. France wonders why Israel doesn’t want to participate in its peace conference which began yesterday. France, in its ongoing attempt to win favor with the Arab world, is joining the Arabs in rewriting history. UNECSO’s absurd resolution is a just rehashing of what Yasser Arafat and today’s Palestinian Authority claim—that Jews have no right to Jerusalem, that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem and that the Holy Temples never stood in Jerusalem. In other words, Jerusalem is only holy to Muslims, not Jews—despite all the archeological and historic evidence to the contrary.
Everyone knows how ridiculous this is. The Waqf—the Muslim cleric keepers of the al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple mount—in their guide books in the 1920’s specifically make mention of the Jewish Temple having been in Jerusalem on the Temple mount.
It was 49 years ago that Jerusalem was reunited. I remember that day as if it was yesterday. Israel was surrounded by Arab armies led by Egypt’s Abdul Nassar who promised to throw Israel into the sea. The war broke out on June 6th and I was in the process of arranging to go over and volunteer my help when my grandfather died on June 8th. By the time the funeral and shiva were over the war had miraculously ended.
Nevertheless, I followed the events of the war with great concern which turned into joy. I remember the picture of that young Israeli soldier standing at the Kotel with such awe and reverence and astonishment in his eyes. I remember the picture of Moshe Dayan, Uzi Narkiss, and Yitzchak Rabin marching together into the old city. I remember when Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, Rav Shlomo Goren, rushed to the Kotel and sounded the Shofar. It sent shivers down my spine when I heard it. I remember the thrilling moment when Colonel Motta Gur cried out on the army wireless radio, Har habayit b’yadeynu (the Temple mount is now in our hands). The 28th day of Iyar was one of the most exciting days in all of Jewish history. It seemed as if the Messiah was just around the corner.
I remember it, but my children don’t. They weren’t alive when it happened. When my grandchildren entered this world, there were already people saying: “It’s not ours— never was.” The world is now being told that Jerusalem is only holy to Muslims. And the ad truth is that some of our kids will believe it! They won’t know that the King of Saudi Arabia said he will never rest until he can come to Jerusalem to pray but he never came during the 19 years when Jerusalem was under Arab control. They won’t know that Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran, but it’s mentioned 630 times in the Bible as the city of Gd, capital of the Jewish nation. They won’t know this unless we tell them! Otherwise, all they will know is what the rest of the world is learning from UNESCO. That is why we repeat the 5th verse from Psalm 137 at every Jewish wedding, passing the true history and its message on: Im eshkacheych Y’rushalayim tishkach y’mini (If I forget you, O Jerusalem let my right hand become paralyzed).
Tomorrow we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). For 2,000 years we could not rejoice over Jerusalem. Instead we mourned. But that mourning kept the dream alive. We have come home. Har Habayit b’yadeynu (the Temple Mount is now in our hands). May Gd make it so until the end of time. Amen!
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis