Jerusalem Day: celebrating 45 years of reunification

As Israel commemorates Yom Yerushalayim – the 45th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem on the 28th of Iyar – it is important to remember the situation in the city during the 19 years in which it was divided. 

Those of us who follow the wonderfully informative Twitter account @1948War have, in recent weeks, been getting real-time reminders of the events which culminated in the fall of the Old City and Jerusalem’s eastern neighbourhoods to the Jordanian forces in 1948. Elsewhere, there are poignant reminders of the expulsion of the city’s Jewish population from areas conquered and occupied by the British-funded, equipped and led Arab Legion.  


Jewish families leaving the old city through Zion Gate. June 1948. John Phillips

Jewish families being evacuated from city. June 1948. John Phillips

Jewish families being evacuated from city. June 1948. John Phillips

During the 19 years of Jordanian occupation, neither Muslim nor Jewish Israelis had access to their holy sites in the Old City (in violation of article VIII of the 1949 Armistice Agreement) and 58 synagogues were destroyed, in addition to other sites of religious significance such as the Mount of Olives. Neither did Jerusalemites enjoy peace in their divided city, as the following pre-Six Day War newspaper cutting shows. 


Jerusalem Municipality to the citizens of Jerusalem

The border with the Old City is mined. The Jordanian snipers are still active; two people were killed by sniping in the Old City. It is strictly forbidden by the army authorities to approach the border or to enter the Old City until further notice. 

In fact, divided Jerusalem appears to have been a cause of regret even for the British film-makers of a Pathe newsreel dating from May of 1967. Leaving aside the now anachronistic (and in parts, borderline racist) style of commentary by someone apparently unable to comprehend why visitors from a country which contributed quite a bit to the division of the city may not feel welcomed with open arms, it is nevertheless interesting to note that whilst 45 years ago Jerusalem’s division was perceived as a problem, many of the commentator’s modern-day contemporaries appear to take the exact opposite view. 

The rest of us will today celebrate the fact that the city is reunited and that members of all religions are today free to live there and visit, in keeping with the words of the then Defence Minister Moshe Dayan on the 28th of Iyar 5727 (June 7th, 1967).  

“This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples’ holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity.” 

Happy Jerusalem Day! 

12 replies »

  1. Thank you Hadar for the reminder, for returning us to the zeitgeist of the day and especially for Dayan’s speech. I wonder whether a Palestinian has ever made as open and warm a speech to Jews and Christians. I think not.

    • Under international law. West Jerusalem is part of the state of Israel but East Jerusalem is part of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

      Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 was never recognized by any Governement in the world. not even the Governement of the United States…

      • And could you point out any Israeli who gives a shit about the recognition of anybody?

    • Wow! I’m really impressed with the quality of the interactive presentation. And the arguments presented in the video make indeed a strong case for a united Jerusalem. Well done, JCPA!

    • Thank you for the link.
      Happy Jerusalem Day, may it remain united and prosper.

      I look forward to the day when the Government of my country, and others, develop a backbone and site our Embassies where they should be in Israel’s Capital, Jerusalem.

  2. May we the Jewish people always be The Light unto nations. No other people would welcome their enemies thus. It is this magnanimity that causes the angst in those who cannot meet that standard and they blame us for making them feel inadequate to the point in which they believe if they eradicate us their pain will ease. No it will not as the only way out for them is to embrace the hand of love we offer and live in mutual respect of our differences.

  3. Im eshkachech Yerushalayim tishkach yemini. Tidbak l’shoni l’chiki im lo ezkerechi, im lo e’aleh et Yerushalayim al rosh simchati.

    If I forget you, O Jerusalem​​, let my right hand wither; Let my tongue stick to my palate if I cease to think of you, if I do not keep Jerusalem​​ in memory even at my happiest hour.

  4. The Brits can divide London,if they so wish.In fact certain parts of London are already divided,you could easily think that you are either in Gaza,Ramallah,or Islamabad…..

    Jerusalem will stay united.It would be a very fool hardy Israeli politician who would actually try to divide Jerusalem.The palestinians know that dividing Jerusalem is the thin edge of the wedge,of dividing the rest of Israel…….

    No land for peace…..It is peace for peace………