Israelis carry out Torahs from a torched synagogue in the central Israeli city of Lod, following a night of heavy rioting by Arab residents in the city, on May 12, 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

By Larry Gordon

That was some birthday party. On Monday, the 28th of Iyar, we marked the 54th anniversary since the liberation of Jerusalem from Arab occupation during the Six Day War.

Unfortunately, some parts of the planned celebration had to be curtailed because of the outburst of violence in the form of rocket fire emanating from the Hamas terrorists in Gaza. That, combined with the attacks on Jews near the Damascus Gate and the rioting and shootings in the Shimon HaTzaddik area of the city, contributed to an overall difficult situation as we headed into Jerusalem Day. Since then, Israel has inched closer to all-out war in Gaza once again.

Still, it was a great, historical, and momentous day for Jews and supporters of Israel in general from around the world. On Monday, I was recalling the 50th anniversary of the celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem, which was just four years ago. We were in Jerusalem for that celebration and for Shavuos a few days later, and it was one of the greatest times to have been in Israel.

The added attraction to that visit was that President Trump, who had been recently inaugurated into the presidency, was in Israel, too. I remember standing at the window of our 15th-floor hotel room watching a fleet of official helicopters flying into the city from Ben Gurion airport with the president aboard.

On Jerusalem Day four years ago the streets were closed to cars. We all carried flags and spent most of the day and the early evening dancing in the streets to live music from bands on makeshift stages on the back of flatbed trucks. We danced and shouted in celebration. For that one day, at least, it seemed that all of Israel was united, just as the city itself was a half-century prior.

So what happened this year—the rather non-momentous 54th year—that caused such a burst of violent attacks, stone throwing, and general assaults of Arab youth against Jews walking the streets of the city? The odd thing about all these decades in Jerusalem was that according to the military planners, today’s reality was never supposed to happen.

In his column that appears in this issue, my old friend and classmate, Shalom Pollack, who lives in Jerusalem, recounts the spur-of-the-moment decision that was made by General Motta Gur just before the troops under his command captured the Old City of Jerusalem, the Kotel, and the Temple Mount.

Gur told then-Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren that his orders were not to capture the Old City but to just surround it and ultimately leave it under Arab control. Now we know what kind of colossal error that would have been. According to Rabbi Goren’s autobiography, the rabbi convinced General Gur to send his troops in and liberate the Old City and the holy sites.

According to the book about Goren’s life, he said that he found Gur somewhat despondent about his orders not to enter the Old City. The chief rabbi argued that if Gur defied orders and liberated Jerusalem, the worst thing that would happen is that he might be disciplined by military authorities and condemned for not following orders. Goren asked Gur, “Would you rather be free and Jerusalem continue to be enslaved?”

So Motta Gur has gone down in history as radioing back to headquarters and his military command the fateful words that are still chilling as well as inspiring when he said, “Har HaBayis b’yadeinu,” the Temple Mount is in our hands.

His commanders, like Moshe Dayan, Yitzchak Rabin, and Uzi Narkiss, were not planning on capturing Jerusalem. They were apparently OK with a divided city, one in which only Jews were denied access to the holiest places in Judaism. If you think being a leftist today is problematic when it comes to those both inside and outside Israel, here’s evidence that the issues back then were very much the same as they are today. The significant difference today is the internet and social media. Whatever the reality on the ground is, they say that because of social media, a fabrication can make it halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on.

A reader wrote the other day asking about how the situation deteriorated so quickly, almost overnight, in Jerusalem, and it seems there is a rather simple explanation that some of our usual critics are not going to appreciate. And that is President Joe Biden and American weakness.

The anti-Israel squad in Congress speaking out about what they feel is Israel’s heavy hand in the current situations understands that their messages targeting and vilifying Israel will go largely unaddressed by the Biden administration because they govern in fear of folks like Representatives Cortez and Tlaib.

Critics of Israel want you to think that what is taking place in the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood in Jerusalem is about Israel evicting Arabs from homes that they have lived in for decades. People like almost Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren are calling for the administration to cut aid to Israel if the actions in Shimon HaTzaddik do not cease.

What is little known and barely acknowledged is that the homes in which the Palestinians live in that part of Jerusalem are illegally occupied. Prior to 1967, this part of Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan. Paperwork on file with the Jerusalem municipality clearly shows that these properties and homes legally belong to Jews dating back almost 150 years. All the evictions are proceeding through the courts and are taking place legally and properly.

The disadvantage of the necessity to wage this kind of battle with a weak and vacillating administration in Washington is that, as usual, Israel will be accused of utilizing disproportionate power even though the Hamas terrorists have so far displayed an array of very powerful and lethal weaponry. There was no way that Hamas in Gaza should have been allowed to amass this kind of advanced weaponry to shower upon the civilian population in communities like Ashkelon, Ashdod, and along the Gaza border.

That Israel allowed that to happen is also a sign of weakness that the terrorists, as you can see, do not hesitate to exploit. That Israel’s leadership is also in transition at this juncture is additionally unhelpful.

Over the last few days, the bombardment targeting Israeli cities and civilians has been intense. Unfortunately, there have been deaths, injuries, and destruction. These kinds of attacks emanating from Gaza have been cyclical. It’s at a time of crisis that the shallowness of an administration becomes more visible and pronounced.

On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Israel has a right to defend herself from the Hamas attacks. He also said that the Palestinians in Gaza have the right to defend themselves, too. So what does that really mean? Is the State Department saying that the Palestinians in Gaza have a right to defend themselves against Israel defending herself? That would be the equivalent of calling for more violence. But that’s what happens when there is no leader and no leadership.

As the sides try to bring down the level of violence currently transpiring and doing damage all around, some say that had Donald Trump been president, this kind of conflagration would probably not have occurred. But I don’t think that is the case. These are terror merchants we are dealing with.

One thing is certain: it was the Trump presidency that made it clear that Jerusalem is the undisputed and undivided capital of Israel. After all, when all is said and done and the smoke clears, it’s all about the sanctity and sovereignty of Jerusalem.

Let’s pray for peace, that calm is restored, and that Israel is ultimately victorious. Here’s hoping for a Chag Sameach for all.

Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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