Israelis soldiers marvel at the Old City of Jerusalem as Israel takes control of it in 1967.
Israelis soldiers marvel at the Old City of Jerusalem as Israel takes control of it in 1967.

On Jerusalem Day, we celebrate the city at very heart of Judaism

As clear as wine, the wind is flying
Among the dreamy pines
As evening light is slowly dying
And a lonely bell still chimes,
So many songs, so many stories
The stony hills recall …
Around her heart my city carries
A lonely ancient wall.

These beautiful words of longing and love to Jerusalem — sometimes described as Israel’s second national anthem — were written some 52 years ago by legendary composer and writer Naomi Shemer. She penned them a short while before the Six-Day War that resulted in reunification of Jerusalem.

On Sunday, June 2, we will celebrate the youngest Israeli national holiday, which commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City. Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day, marks the 1967 return of the Old City to the heart of the Jewish people, along with the only remainder from the Second Temple, the Western Wall, which is now under Israel’s rule in the modern State of Israel.

Jerusalem, Zion, was, is and will always will be the heart of Judaism. In the Hebrew Bible, the name Jerusalem is mentioned 669 times. Jews never left Jerusalem, physically or spiritually.

For 2,000 years, a small Jewish community remained in the Old City and survived many rulers. Even more so, we Jews never left Jerusalem spiritually. We continued to dream about Jerusalem, to pray to Jerusalem, to climb to Jerusalem. It also never left us.

Despite different solutions offered to the Zionist movement in the early 20th century to solve the Jewish problem, the majority refused to accept anything but Zion, Jerusalem.

Psalm 137 says: “If I forget thee Oh Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue stick to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my greatest joy.” This verse is repeated at the end of every wedding, at the happiest moment, when we break the glass to remember the destruction of the Temple and our covenant with Jerusalem. This is how deep is the connection.

Yerushalayim all of gold
Yerushalayim, bronze and light
Within my heart I shall treasure
Your song and sight.

Jerusalem today is a vibrant city, a city of religious freedom, of democracy, academy, a judicial system, innovation, tourism, coexistence, tension, politics and more. It has Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Ethiopian, Armenians, Russians, Palestinians, Copts, Greeks and more. Maybe more than any other city, Jerusalem, as the city of God, allows this amazing coexistence.

As the celebration of Jerusalem takes place, those of you who have a chance to visit will enjoy the amazing festivities, along with the display of thousands of blue-and-white Israeli flags as well as Jerusalem flags displaying the Lion of Judah superimposed upon an image of the Western Wall. There is something special when you drive into the city, viewing these flags. One can’t help thinking about our deep historical connection to this city and this country.

Back to the wells and to the fountains
Within the ancient walls
The sound of horn from Temple’s mountain
Again so loudly calls
We are back and here to stay.

L’shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim.

Shlomi Kofman
Shlomi Kofman

Shlomi Kofman is the consul general of Israel to San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest.