Yom Yerushalayim—Jerusalem Day—is one of great joy here in Jerusalem. This year is especially significant, as we are celebrating 50 years of Jerusalem united under Israeli control.
The reunification of the beloved city! The festivities! The prayers of thanksgiving echoing throughout the synagogues and reverberating off the ancient stones. The parades. The palpable feeling of joy and commitment. The sense of destiny. The mayor speaks and there are memorial services for those who died in the Six-Day War. For weeks before, the trees are adorned with blue and white lights and there is even a light show, illuminating the walls of the Old City.
Once, when we were new immigrants, we, too, marched proudly with our baby carriages in the parade. Many believers do, as they have heard and responded to the ancient call inviting us to "come home."
At the end of the Israeli War of Independence, the Holy City of Jerusalem was divided. Jordanian forces controlled sites such as the Western Wall, as well as The Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
During the war, one of the most stirring moments occured, which was captured on camera and tape, when Lt. General Mordechai Gur announced, "The Temple Mount is in our hands … the Temple Mount is in our hands!" Why was this so very significant? It was so because once again Jews would finally be able to pray at the Western Wall. From 1948 until that very day, not only were Jews prohibited from having access to the Western Wall, but Israeli Muslims were also prohibited from praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Israeli Christians were barred from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. According to the Catholic University Law Review (Spring 1996), prior to 1967 the access to all holy sites was prohibited. The law was one of exclusion. After the war, the law was one of inclusion.
I have been fortunate to be able to go to the Western Wall whenever I want to. I have stood with my children during their induction to the army, and have prayed on Yom Kippur. My sons have rejoiced at their Bar Mitzvah ceremonies and we have left our share of notes in the wall as well, asking God for his mercy in one area or another.
However, not only is there religious significance for all, Jerusalem has become a thriving, international city!
Mamilla shopping mall, with high-end hotels surrounding it, is a lovely pedestrian mall in which one sees people from all walks of life. Buses come from Bethlehem and I have often met Palestinian friends there, where the architect's vision of "east meets west" has been fulfilled. It begins just outside of the Old City and ends in the heart of town.
Jerusalem now also has a Light Rail and this provides ease of movement to many inhabitants. There have been two cinema metroplexes built, and this means revenue, jobs, and fun!
The Shuk (open-air market) has experienced a revival of sorts as well with many trendy restaurants and pubs open well into the night. We often meet our friends there, share a meal, and walk around town.
Throughout the summer there are open-air concerts and every Friday artists display their wares. I could go on and on speaking about our beloved Jerusalem. Oh, I can't forget the newly renovated train station, which now has a pedestrian mall, restaurants, and shops.
I once heard someone say that "responsibility" is to “respond to our ability.” Though this is not the official Webster Dictionary definition, it is one that I love and, in some ways, it is our responsibility to indeed respond to our abilities. I asked my Hebrew-speaking family if the word Yerushalayim had anything to do with the word, "Yerusha," or, inheritance. It does not—but, it should! Yerushalayim is our inheritance, and not just ours, but Yeshua-following Gentiles as well. It is here that our Lord was crucified and it is to here, a united Jerusalem, free and accessible, where he will return.
So this week when we are in school and someone quotes the beloved words, "The Temple Mount is in our hands," I will have to swallow the lump in my throat and thank God for bringing us home to our city, to our inheritance, whole and free once again.