While the 1967 Six
Day War ushered in a 46-year period of controversial and complex political
realities, Israelis joyously celebrate that year’s historic military victories
over Egypt, Syria and Jordan on an annual basis.
Click photo to download. Caption: A view of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Credit: Berthold Werner.
In particular, Israelis commemorate Yom Yersushalayim–Jerusalem Day–the
national holiday celebrating the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem and the
establishment of Israeli control over the Old City. The famous paratrooper
call, which Israelis vividly recall, “Har Habayit b’yadeinu” (“The Temple Mount
is in our hands”), is a symbol of national victory and rebuilding for many
within the modern State of Israel.
“When we hear that call, it is a moment that is full of emotions. Yom
Yerushalayim is a day of miracles of biblical proportion,” Rabbi Chaim Richman,
International Director of the Temple Institute, told JNS.org.
“The victory in Jerusalem evokes the most precious emotions, because it sits at
the core of our identity as Jewish people. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700
times in Jewish scripture. And at the heart of Jerusalem and the Old City is
the Temple Mount,” Richman said.
Following the historic liberation of the Temple Mount in 1967, the Israeli
government quickly handed sovereignty of the site back to the Wakf–the Muslim
religious organization that served as custodian of the Temple Mount throughout
Jordan’s 19-year illegal occupation of Jerusalem. The move surprised many Jews
and Muslims alike.
The Temple Mount, the site of the First and Second Jewish Temples, is
universally acknowledged as the holiest site in all of Judaism. According to
Rabbinic sources, the First Temple stood for 410 years, and the Second Temple
stood for 420 years.
Muslims consider the site to be holy, despite the fact that Jerusalem is never
mentioned explicitly in the Koran. To this day, the Muslim Wakf has maintained
control of the site, enforcing strict limitations on Jewish worship. As a
result, the Temple Mount, of all places, has become a flashpoint where Jews are
not permitted to offer peaceful prayer.
Ever since the Six Day War, Palestinian Authority leaders including Yasser
Arafat and current Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have attempted
to deny that the Temple Mount has any significance in Judaism. During the 2000
Camp David Summit, Yasser Arafat famously denied that a Jewish Temple ever
stood on the site.
Yet, according to a pamphlet entitled “A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al Sharif,
Jerusalem,” a visitors’ guide to the Temple Mount published by the Supreme
Moslem Council in 1925, the sanctity of the Temple Mount “dates from the
“Its identity with
the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute,” the pamphlet says. “This, too,
is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which ‘David built there an
altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.’”
And while many have not been interested bringing the question of Jewish
sovereignty on the Temple Mount to the front of the national agenda, today
growing numbers of Israelis are questioning how the holiest site in Judaism, at
the heart of the capital of the Jewish State has become off-limits to Jewish