By Rowan Polovin, Chairman, SAZF Cape Council
We recently celebrated 50 years of a reunified Jerusalem: the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish People, and the united capital of the Jewish State.
We marked the Jubilee Anniversary of that miraculous day of 28 Iyar 5727 / 7 June 1967, when Israeli paratroopers liberated the Jordanian-occupied Old City of Jerusalem, reunited the City, and reconnected the Jewish Capital with the holiest sites in all Judaism, The Temple Mount and Western Wall.
For almost 20 years prior to that moment, Jews were unable to live in the Old City or pray at the Western Wall.
For two thousand years, Jerusalem had become a spiritual-beacon in the soul of an exiled people, the Jewish Diaspora, and had fueled their desire to return to Zion in freedom and self-determination. “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem”, recounts a famous psalm, “let my right hand forget its strength”. To this day, Jews praying anywhere in the Diaspora turn to face Jerusalem. Jews praying inside Jerusalem turns to face the Temple Mount. We commemorate 50 years of Jews not only being able to turn, but physically to be, at very place towards which they pray.
The importance and ongoing centrality of a unified Jerusalem to the Jews should never be underestimated or forgotten, nor should we ever allow enemies of the Jews to destroy that unbreakable connection. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any other nation besides the Jews. Jewish scripture has over 72 names for Jerusalem in Hebrew. The Tanakh references Jerusalem, or its alternate Hebrew name ‘Zion’, over 850 times. Almost daily, archeological findings of Jewish artefacts in or around Jerusalem prove over and over again the many-thousand-year connection between Jews and our Holy City.
In spite of the overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence of this connection, UNESCO, the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture whose motto is “building peace in the minds of men and women” recently passed a Palestinian-drafted resolution of grotesque historical revisionism that through words eliminated the Jewish bond to Jerusalem, and tried to eradicate the historical connection between Judaism and its holiest sites, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The reality of the situation is, in fact, the complete opposite.
South African Jews, contrary to what antisemites often claim, are loyal to South Africa, and see our Executive Capital as Pretoria, our judicial capital as Bloemfontein and our legislative capital in Cape Town. However, our spiritual capital is and always will be Yerushalayim. We may be physically separate from her right now, but she exists in our heart of hearts as the whole and undivided city that connects us every day to the core of our faith.
As Jews, we will continue to allow non-Jews the dignity that they have historically denied us: the ability to exist and to pray freely in our city and land. We recall the words of at the time Defense Minister Moshe Dayan who said shortly after liberating the city, “To our Arab neighbours, Israel extends the hand of peace and to all peoples of all faiths, we guarantee full freedom of worship. We’ve not come to conquer the holy places of others but to live with others in harmony”.
May Jerusalem remain indivisible, may we all return to Zion spiritually or physically, never to part from her again. And may she be a city of peace, love and joy for all who live there.