Jerusalem Day? I’ve never heard of it

By Shelly Paz, June 5, 2008

Orthodox jews took to the streets of the Israeli capital on Monday to celebrate Jerusalem Day.

It has become a key event in the Israeli calendar and marks the moment that the city was reunited after the Six-Day War.

But it was one that past laregely without comment in London as few in the community had ever heard of it.

“The fact that I didn't know about it maybe means it should be a lot better publicised than it is, said Candice Joseph, 22, a research worker at the Institute of Psychiatry. "But now that I have been told what is it all about, it means a lot.”

Estate agent Michael Rubin, 47, said: “It should be celebrated in Israel, but I have no suggestions how because I don't know the significance of it to be honest."

The day marks the third day of the Six Day War, in June 1967 when Israel took back the eastern part of the city that had been under Jordanian control since the War of Independence in 1948.

Combined IDF aerial and ground forces went into the city, where there was no food, water or medical supplies, and conquered east Jerusalem, including the Old City, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.

Three weeks after the war ended, the Knesset announced the reunification of the city and applied the Israeli law to the whole of Jerusalem, including freedom of religious practice for the entire population.

In 1968 Jerusalem Day became a public holiday, the Hebrew date of Iyar 28.

Although it is clearly not a holy day, it has become the province of strictly Orthodox communities who dance in the city centre. But the dancing is segregated. In recent years, the secular population barely participate.

In Britain, the day is primarily marked by the right-wing Zionist movement, Likud, which this year brought over the former government minister and ex-MK, Uzi Landau, for its celebration event. Some Jewish schools refer to Jerusalem Day during assembly; and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' new siddur has a special prayer for the reunification of the city.

Victor Laniado, 38, an exporter of pharmaceuticals, said: “The day should be celebrated like Independence Day with celebrations and a day off.”

Sylva Rubashova, 74, a former Jerusalem resident who worked for the BBC and Israel Radio, disagreed: “It has nothing to do with British law, with British citizens or with English people.

“I don't think there should be a Jerusalem Day in Israel, just like there is no Tel Aviv, Haifa or Netanya Day.”

Michael Israel, 47, a distributor of Israeli wines who regularly visits Jerusalem, was less enthusiastic and felt a divided city was inevitable.

“It seems like we are moving towards a peace agreement that will have to split Jerusalem, which will be a shame, but we will have to do it for peace and for the children,” he said.

Salesman Simon Fremder, 51, agreed. “If a deal to split Jerusalem strengthens Israel, I support it, if it weakens it, I don't, as long as the initiative comes from Israel,” he said.

Last updated: 10:13am, June 5 2008