Yom Yerushalyim – Jerusalem Day: Resources for teaching and learning

Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim in Hebrew, is a commemoration of the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in June 1967 and it is celebrated on the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar.

On this day, the city is pampered and beautified just for the sake of celebration. So what typically takes place on this special day? Examples include official ceremonies, tours, tastings, a festive parade, a lot of music, unique characters with a story and everything Jerusalem has to offer.

This year Jerusalem celebrates the 53rd anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification. 

Historical Resources:

  1. CIE’s Jerusalem Timeline: https://israeled.org/jerusalem-timeline/
  2. Explore the major challenges and accomplishments of past Jerusalem mayors – who were they and how did they govern the city?  https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/mayors-of-jerusalem
  3. What would you do if you were Teddy Kollek the day after the 1967 War? https://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/world/middleeast/03kollek.html
  4. Watch this documentary of the Six Day War: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxEXGA0RU5c (48 minutes)  
  5. Learn about the Ethiopian Jews’ Memorial Day, held in conjunction with Jerusalem Day on the 28th of Iyar.  This day is held in honor  of the Ethiopian Jews who died in the Sudanese desert during the journey to Israel https://m.knesset.gov.il/EN/About/Lexicon/Pages/EthiopianMemorialDay.aspx, https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Paying-tribute-to-Ethiopian-Jews-who-didnt-make-it-455701
    1. Video of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech in 2018 at the Ceremony on Mount Herzl in honor of Ethiopian Jews who died en-route to Israel (Hebrew without English subtitles), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgYTlMI6p5g
  6. Watch this 1972 interview (in English!) with General Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister during the Six-Day War in 1967: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzVrRStVo9k
  7. What is Jerusalem’s significance to other religions and peoples?  Since 1967’s unification of Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty, all faiths have been granted access to their holy sites, a right that is safeguarded and was not afforded to Jews prior to 1967.  Explore the historical, religious, and cultural claims that Christianity and Islam have over Jerusalem. Click here to download a graphic on the city’s importance to three religions.
  1. The Six Day War Project – a series of brief, bite-sized videos from the Unpacked YouTube Channel which CIE collaborated in creating: 
    1. Day Three of the War (“The Temple Mount is in our hands”): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyZA8B_hr58&list=PL-DNOnmKkUaagpJX65dCjPHf2gzdZ9LqR&index=7
    2. Day Six of the War, Summary of the War: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDLuvJUww2Y&list=PL-DNOnmKkUaagpJX65dCjPHf2gzdZ9LqR&index=10
    3. Aftermath of the War: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NJEiTNGUKw&list=PL-DNOnmKkUaagpJX65dCjPHf2gzdZ9LqR&index=11

Present Day Resources:

  1. Read the interview with the current Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, also the first Sephardi Jew to hold this position: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/israel-middle-east/articles/the-lion-of-jerusalem  What are the current challenges and opportunities described in the article for the city and for the mayor?   What would you prioritize for Jerusalem today?
  2. Watch the live feed from the Kotel here: https://english.thekotel.org/kotel/kotel_cameras/ and/or view the videos offered on this site.  
  3. Music – Explore the history of Naomi Shemer, Shuli Natan, and “Jerusalem of Gold” before and after the 1967 War, and how the song embodies the history of Jerusalem.  Which songs are sung today to reflect Jerusalem’s importance and significance to the Jewish people and the State of Israel? https://web.nli.org.il/sites/NLI/English/music/Compilations/Pages/jerusalem.aspx and https://www.jpost.com/christian-news/songwriter-naomi-shemers-jerusalem-of-gold-foretold-six-day-war-victory-457770  Explore other versions of this song by different artists on youtube, such as Ofra Haza’s rendition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72QC8EGnxTw and share how Israel’s multiculturalism is reflected in these renditions.

Listen to other songs from the 1967 war on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/7M3VjSn3mY82nuWdJ6PU73  What themes can you identify?  What were the emotions, hopes and desires that resonated with the nation at that time and today?

  1. Ammunition Hill is now a Jerusalem museum that commemorates the events of the June 1967 War. https://www.itraveljerusalem.com/ent/ammunition-hill-givat-hatahmoshet/  What was the importance of this site to the war and what messages does the museum convey to visitors? –
  2. Religious significance of Jerusalem: Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks discusses the holiness and history of Jerusalem for the Jewish People https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd9PCaqWQaI
  3. Explore Jerusalem from home – virtual reality and digital tours of important sites: https://www.explore.itraveljerusalem.com/
    1. Tower of David VR: https://www.tod.org.il/en/tod-is-temporarily-closed/
    2. Other cool 360 degree virtual tour options: http://www.3disrael.com/jerusalem/, https://samsungvr.com/view/Wv_0tcndBOG

Jerusalem U.S. Embassy Move:

As Israel’s borders are not finalized, due to a lack of a recognized peace agreement with the Palestinians, the status of Jerusalem has been, at times, controversial.  In 2018, Israel passed the Nation State Law restating the 1980 Basic Law; in article 3: State Capital – Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel (https://knesset.gov.il/laws/special/eng/BasicLawNationState.pdf).  

On December 6, 2017, President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and stated that the American embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and later held the dedication ceremony on May 14th, 2018.  As you read various reactions from around the world, consider whether this move is symbolic in nature or transformative to the peace process.  In whose national interests is this move and why?  To what extent should Israel take international views into consideration as it legislates and enforces its national laws?

  1. Prime Minister Netanyahu:
    1. Netanyahu said… that the US announcement was a ‘historic landmark’ and that Mr. Trump’s decision was ‘courageous and just’ [adding that it was] ‘an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel’ [because] the city had ‘been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years’… [Netanyahu said,] ‘We are already in contacts with other countries that will declare similar recognition,’ he said, adding: ‘It’s about time.’” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42250340)
    2. Netanyahu’s speech at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem the day before the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem: “… [T]omorrow will be a historic day for our people and for our state. President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem affirms a great and simple truth: Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past three thousand years. It’s been the capital of our state for the past 70 years. It will remain our capital for all time.” (https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/PressRoom/2018/Pages/PM-Netanyahu-welcomes-the-US-delegation-13-May-2018.aspx)
  2. Response within Israel: 
    1. Politicians including Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) and Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) support the embassy move : https://ajn.timesofisrael.com/us-embassy-move-a-great-day-for-israel/
    2. 73% of Jewish Israelis support the moving of the embassy including its timing – the graph below shows the division by segment of the Jewish population of Israel (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/14/israel-trump-embassy-jerusalem-poll-218368
  1. Trump Administration:

 “Ever since [its establishment], Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem, the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times.

Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government. It is the home of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court. It is the location of the official residence of the prime minister and the president. It is the headquarters of many government ministries.

For decades, visiting American presidents, secretaries of State and military leaders have met their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem, as I did on my trip to Israel earlier this year.

Jerusalem is today and must remain a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the stations of the cross, and where Muslims worship at Al Aqsa Mosque. However, through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have declined to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In fact, we have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital at all.” 

  1. Palestinian response:
    1. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (through his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeineh): “With this step, the U.S. administration has cancelled its role in the peace process and has insulted the world, the Palestinian people and the Arab and the Islamic nation and it has created incitement and instability,” https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/abbas-blasts-u-s-embassy-move-an-insult-to-world-and-palestinians-1.6091355
      1. “‘These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts,’ [Abbas] said in a speech broadcast after Mr Trump’s announcement. He insisted that Jerusalem was the ‘eternal capital of the state of Palestine’.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42250340)
    2. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Palestinians would not talk to the US until President Trump reversed his decision (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42287429)
    3. Hamas: “The leader of… Hamas, Ismail Haniya, called for a new ‘intifada’ or uprising. ‘The American decision is an aggression against our people. It’s a declaration of war against our Palestinian people,’ he told a news conference in Gaza.”
  2. American Jewish groups’ reaction to the embassy move: (https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/How-US-Jewish-groups-are-reacting-to-Trumps-recognition-of-Jerusalem-as-Israels-capital-517280)
    1. Support from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations https://www.conferenceofpresidents.org/news/press/2018/may14/conference-presidents-applauds-opening-us-embassy-jerusalem
    2. Conservative Movement in the US – contrasted with the Reform Movement in the US: https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Conservative-Movement-backs-Trump-recognition-of-Jerusalem-as-capital-of-Israel-517589
    3. A survey of American Jews’ response to the embassy move (16% supported an immediate embassy move to Jerusalem, 36% supported moving the embassy at a later date in conjunction with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, 44% opposed the embassy move, and 4% weren’t sure): https://www.ajc.org/survey2017
  3. International Response and Condemnation:
    1. Many international actors expressed serious concern at the United States’ decision to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/world/europe/trump-jerusalem-pope.html)
      1. Pope Francis: “I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days… And at the same time, I wish to make a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations… Jerusalem is… sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the Holy Places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace. I pray to the Lord that such identity be preserved and strengthened… and that wisdom and prudence prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts.”
      2. The European Union’s top diplomat: “Federica Mogherini expressed concern about ‘the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace.’ [reiterating] the [European Union] bloc’s position that Jerusalem should be a future capital of two states, Israeli and Palestinian, and that embassies should not be moved there until the city’s final status was resolved.
      3. German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Merkel said through a spokesman that her government ‘does not support this position, because the status of Jerusalem is to be resolved in the framework of a two-state solution.’”
      4. French President Emmanuel Macron: “President Emmanuel Macron of France… said in a news conference that the decision by Mr. Trump was ‘regrettable’ and that ‘France and Europe are committed to a two-state solution.’”
      5. China: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Geng Shuang, expressed support for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and urged all parties to the conflict to proceed cautiously. ‘What we worry about is any potential flare-up of regional tensions,’ he said. “The status of Jerusalem is a complicated and sensitive issue.”
    2. United Nations:
      1. UN Secretary General António Guterres:  outside the Security Council chambers at the United Nations headquarters, “Mr. Guterres criticized ‘any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,’ adding ‘Jerusalem is a final-status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides.’” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/world/europe/trump-jerusalem-pope.html)
      2. United Nations Security Council rebuke (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/18/us-outnumbered-14-to-1-as-it-vetoes-un-vote-on-status-of-jerusalem and https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/world/middleeast/trump-jerusalem-united-nations.html?smid=tw-share): 14 votes (every member of the council except for the United States) calling for the withdrawal of Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The US used its veto.
      3. UN General Assembly voted 128 to 9 with 35 abstentions for a resolution demanding that the US rescind its December 6 decision on Jerusalem. While this resolution was symbolic, it symbolized the international response to the Trump administration’s announcement on Jerusalem, a departure from long-term international consensus. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/world/middleeast/trump-jerusalem-united-nations.html?smid=tw-share)
  1. Presidential candidate Joe Biden supports keeping the embassy in Jerusalem, if elected: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/04/29/us/politics/ap-us-election-2020-biden-embassy.html?searchResultPosition=1

Project Based Learning Opportunity

Consider how past celebrations of Yom Yerushalayim have taken place.  How would you design a celebration of Jerusalem’s status today as a unified city and the complexities of its unresolved issues?  What would that celebration look like for your community?  What aspects of Jerusalem would be emphasized?  Make a list of suggestions and explain your rationale.