Today is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, the celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War, after Israel crushed the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
A bit of Jerusalem history from CAMERA
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly recommended Palestine be partitioned into two states–Arab and Jewish. The plan called for Jerusalem to become a corpus separatum, an international city administered by the UN, for an interval of 10 years, after which the city’s status was to be redetermined in a referendum. While Jewish leaders reluctantly accepted this, Arab leaders rejected the entire plan, including Jerusalem’s internationalization. Arab delegates to the UN declared the partition invalid. Deadly Arab attacks on Jewish residents of Palestine increased, and Arab forces blockaded the road to Jerusalem. When Israel declared Independence in May 1948, five neighboring Arab countries invaded the new state.
1948 Arab-Israeli War
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Transjordan’s Arab Legion attempted to capture the entire city of Jerusalem, shelling it and cutting off its Jewish residents from the coastal plain. Western portions of Jerusalem came under Israel’s control only after Israeli forces broke the Arab siege of the city. In the first four weeks of Arab attacks, 200 Jewish civilians were killed and over 1,000 were wounded in Jerusalem. But, defending themselves, Israeli forces managed to capture some suburbs and villages from the Arabs.
The Israeli defenders were not as successful in protecting the Jewish community of eastern Jerusalem. On May 28, 1948, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City fell to the Arab Legion. After 10 months of fighting, an armistice agreement was signed on April 3, 1949, dividing Jerusalem along the November 1948 ceasefire lines of Israeli and Transjordanian forces, with several areas of no-man’s land. The armistice line served as a temporary border between what had formerly been two mixed communities. Western Jerusalem became Israel’s capital city, while eastern Jerusalem, including the holy sites, was occupied by Transjordan, which in 1949 became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The city was essentially divided between two armed camps separated by barbed wire, concrete walls, minefields and bunkers.
1948-1967: Jordanian Occupation of Eastern Jerusalem
Upon its capture by the Arab Legion, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was destroyed and its residents expelled. Fifty-eight synagogues—some hundreds of years old—were destroyed, their contents looted and desecrated. Some Jewish religious sites were turned into chicken coops or animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where Jews had been burying their dead for over 2500 years, was ransacked; graves were desecrated; thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material, paving stones or for latrines in Arab Legion army camps. The Intercontinental Hotel was built on top of the cemetery and graves were demolished to make way for a highway to the hotel. The Western Wall became a slum area.
Jordan’s Illegal Annexation
In 1950, Jordan annexed the territories it had captured in the 1948 war—eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. The April 24th resolution declared “its support for complete unity between the two sides of the Jordan and their union into one State, which is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, at whose head reigns King Abdullah Ibn al Husain…”
While Great Britain and Pakistan were the only countries that recognized Jordan’s annexation — all other nations, including the Arab states, rejected it — Great Britain recognized only the annexation of the West Bank. It never recognized either Jordan or Israel’s sovereignty over any sector of Jerusalem, viewing both Jordan’s 1950 annexation and Israel’s annexation of west Jerusalem as illegal.
Religious Restrictions and Denial of Access to Holy Sites
In direct contravention of the 1949 armistice agreements, Jordan did not permit Jews access to their holy sites or to the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
Israeli Arabs, too, were denied access to the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, but their Muslim sites in eastern Jerusalem were respected.
While Christians, unlike Jews, were allowed access to their holy sites, they too were subject to restrictions under Jordanian law. There were limits on the numbers of Christian pilgrims permitted into the Old City and Bethlehem during Christmas and Easter. Christian charities and religious institutions were prohibited from buying real estate in Jerusalem or owning property near holy sites. And Christian schools were subject to strict controls. They were required to teach in Arabic, close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, and teach all students the Koran. At the same time, they were not allowed to teach Christian religious material to non-Christians.
1967: Reunification of Jerusalem
During the 1967 war, Israel appealed to Jordan to stay out of the war, but despite this appeal, Jordanian forces fired artillery barrages from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Although Israeli forces did not respond initially, not wanting to open up a Jordanian front in the war, Jordan continued to attack and occupied UN headquarters in Jerusalem. Israeli forces fought back and within two days managed to repulse the Jordanian forces and retake eastern Jerusalem.
On June 7, 1967, IDF paratroopers advanced through the Old City toward the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, bringing Jerusalem’s holiest site under Jewish control for the first time in 2000 years. There are sound recordings of the scene, as the commander of the brigade, Lt. General Mordechai (Motta) Gur, approaches the Old City and announces to his company commanders, “We’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City…” and shortly afterwards, “The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!” General Rabbi Shlomo Goren, chief chaplain of the IDF, sounded the Shofar at the Western Wall to signify its liberation. To Israelis and Jews all over the world, this was a joyous and momentous occasion. Many considered it a gift from God.
This is the famous and moving live radio broadcast of the recapture of the Old City.
I have published this before, but every time I listen to it, I am moved to tears.
What you are now about to hear is perhaps one of the most riveting recordings in the modern-day history of Israel. I refer to the dramatic sounds of Israeli Defense Forces entering and liberating Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall on June 7th, 1967. You hear the sounds of gunfire. You hear the footsteps of Israeli soldiers, as they draw closer and closer and as General Uzi Narkiss instructs them and asks to be shown where the Western Wall stands. We hear a triumphant Brigadier General Shlomo Goren, later to become the Chief Rabbi of Israel, as he recites the memorial prayer and sound the shofar, as Israeli soldiers weep with sorrow over their comrades killed in combat.
Listen closely to this piece of history, which is housed in the archives of the Avi Yaffe Recording Studio in Jerusalem.
Here is the Translation:
Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
The open square of the Temple Mount.
Sound of applause by the soldiers.
IDF Radio Reporter Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.
Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.
Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.
Yelling of commands to soldiers.
More soldiers’ footsteps.
Yossi Ronen:The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.
Yossi Ronen:We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.
Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands! All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.
Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.
Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.
General Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.
Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.
Command on the army wireless: Search the area, make sure to enter every single house, but do not touch anything. Especially in holy places.
Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.
General Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?
Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.
Soldiers: [reciting the 'Shehechianu' blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. Translation: Blessed art Thou Lord God King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day.
Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem
Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ [The Israeli National Anthem] next to the Western Wall.
Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:
Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar.
Rabbi Goren: El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!
Translation: Merciful God in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to God and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.
Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.
Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika!
Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!
The historic radio broadcast of the liberation of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall was researched, transcribed and translated by Yitschak Horneman / Quality Translations, Jerusalem.
Television producer Yossi Ronen recalls broadcasting the liberation of the Temple Mount and Western Wall. The third of three eye witness accounts provided to ‘Bamahane – IDF Magazine’ by men who took part in the key moments of the Six Day War, which helped change the course of Jewish, Middle East and world history