I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem is built
As a city that is compact together …
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.”
Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim) commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in 1967. It is celebrated on the 28th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. This year, on May 23-24, Jerusalem will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification.
In 1947, under the UN Partition Plan, the establishment of two states was proposed: a Jewish state and an Arab state. Jerusalem was to be declared an international city, neither exclusively Arab nor Jewish. This status was to last for ten years, and then a referendum was to be held among Jerusalem residents to decide which country Jerusalem would join. The Jewish leadership accepted this plan, including the special status of Jerusalem, but the Arabs rejected the proposal.
In 1948, as soon as the independence of Israel was declared, it was attacked by its Arab neighbors. By the end of this war – the Independence War – the Old City and East Jerusalem were left occupied by Jordan. Therefore, Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan.
The situation changed in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War. On June 7, 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem. Later that day, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared the words that are often quoted during Yom Yerushalayim:
This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace.
The Six-Day War ended with a ceasefire on June 11, 1967.
Abraham Had Two Sons . . .
There will be many celebratory events held throughout the city on Jerusalem Day. Yet, with all the coming festivities and joy of this day, there is still a wound in my heart – because there is still a wound in the heart of my city.
The King James translation of the verse from Psalm 122 – the verse I used as an epigraph to this article – is the verse that is often quoted on Jerusalem day. However, translating the Hebrew verb “hubra” with “compact”, does not really express the intense meaning of the original text: Jerusalem is a city that is tied, connected, bound together; “bound firmly together”, I found in one of the translations. At least this is God’s design for His city. Unfortunately, this is not our reality. Who knows better than we, Jews and Arabs living in a conflict-torn Jerusalem of today, that our city is not “bound firmly together”. Anyone who has ever been to Jerusalem knows very well that there is a highway number 1 winding through the city and dividing it into two parts: West and East Jerusalem.
I am not involved in politics, and I am not planning to discuss politics on this blog, and I can assure you, this is not about politics – it’s about God’s Word and God’s plan, and therefore my heart is pained every time I hear this Psalm. Jerusalem has to be a city bound firmly together. Abraham had two sons, and both sons have a part to play in Abraham’s family and in God’s plan. Neither can be excluded, whether from the family or from the plan – both are essential. Certainly, they will not play the same part: the sons were very different and their destinies were also very different. However, the family picture will not be complete until they are both represented. We live together in this city, and Jerusalem day has to be a celebration for all Jerusalem residents. Both sons need to be present in the family picture. Then, and only then, will this picture become complete.
During last month, marking all the special days that our country observes in April/May, I already spoke about Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem in Luke 19: “He saw the city and wept over it”. This episode is crucial for those who want to understand His heart and His love for His people. I’ve shared with you that years ago, my book about God’s tears over Israel’s suffering (“If you are the Son of God…”) started from the realization (revelation) of this simple and obvious fact, that I had never before considered: In the entire New Testament, Jesus weeps only twice – once here over Jerusalem, and once over Lazarus (“Jesus wept”). There are no accidents in the Word of God: Through the tears of Jesus, repeated twice, the election and destiny of Israel is reflected in the election and destiny of Lazarus. Although Jesus knows that, in a short time Lazarus will be resurrected, He weeps at the tomb over the pain His beloved friend has had to endure on the path to his resurrection. He weeps over this seemingly insurmountable contradiction of the two realities: the inner and outer, the invisible and visible, God’s and man’s. In God’s invisible, spiritual reality Lazarus is chosen and beloved, but here in the visible, physical, human reality he is abandoned and rejected by the Lord, and not only that, he is dead.
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem with the same tears of love and compassion that He wept over Lazarus. He weeps over the same contradiction of the two realities: in the visible, physical, human reality Israel will seem abandoned and rejected by the Lord – while in God’s invisible, spiritual reality she remains chosen and beloved. Abraham having two sons, both a natural one and a supernatural one, was also a prophetic picture of God having two sons: the natural son and the supernatural Son – and God loves both sons dearly.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.
When the tumult was stilled across the land,
Silent tears the only trace of her wails,
Your walls, forever engraved on My hand,
Prepared to be pierced by the nails.
Muffled cries break through the morning calm:
Blood streamed down that Passover Eve;
And the nail that was thrust into My living palm
An eternal imprint would leave…
In the sun’s blackened glare, sightless man could not see,
To the blind to perceive was not given,
That in pounding that nail to the cross first through Me,
Into your walls it was driven.
* * *
Having now risen, I still bear the stain
Of those marks bestowed then by mankind;
On the palms of My hands your walls yet remain:
With those old rusty scars you’re aligned.
Full of envy and spite, and indifferent to them,
No wounds the blind world recalls,
Driving those same ancient nails, O Jerusalem,
Fearlessly into your walls.
And once again, they know not what they do
To Me, Who sees all whence I stand:
Every time that they target your walls, they renew
The pain in the palm of My hand.