First of all, we do not only celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem. We also celebrate the rescue of Tel Aviv. Those who were here during the days before the break of the Six Days War – can tell you. The whole existence of the young State of Israel was in danger in 1967. Our 19-year-old country was not only saved; it grew several times in size, and returned to the biblical areas of the Land of Israel.
Second, because of the fulfillment of the dream. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize Laureate, once said that Jerusalem connects people to each other in a mysterious, inexplicable way. When a Jew visits it for the first time, he says that this is not his first visit. It is a return home. A friend of mine, a new Olah from Ethiopia, told me years ago how every time she and her siblings saw, in their childhood in Addis Ababa, a stork flying in the sky, they used to cry to it: “Stork, stork, how is Jerusalem doing?”
Natan Sharansky once said how, when he was convicted together with his friends of treason in “Mother Russia”, they were asked by the court to sum up their defense arguments. Sharansky then said: “I have nothing to say to this court, but to the People of Israel and to my wife I say: Next year in Jerusalem”. We are living a 2,000-year-old prophecy, that is being fulfilled.
Third and most important: We are happy today because of the enormity of the present challenge, because of the great chance we received precisely in our generation, of all generations. We won the lottery, and now, what do we do with this treasure? Our mission is to turn all this energy, all the ancient oaths and yearnings and prayers, which are thousands of years old – into something practical, to make the Heavenly Jerusalem (ירושלים של מעלה) and the Earthly Jerusalem (ירושלים של מטה) united, to make sure that this place will indeed announce an alternative culture to the whole world. We’re on our way there.
Chana Zemer, editor of the Davar newspaper (a famous secular newspaper that closed in 1996), wrote in the newspaper after the arrival of our soldiers to the Western Wall: “ובא לציון גואל. Redemption came to Zion. For two thousand years – eighty generations – the Jews turned to the East: during Shacharis, Minchah and Ma’ariv. Thousands of years have not blurred the national memory with which a Jew is born, just as he is born with all of his bodily organs. All the biblical verses are coming alive in front of our very eyes.”
People do not write like this in newspapers anymore, and yet we must not forget that the great great grandparents of all of us could have never imagined that they would ever merit to pay Arnona (city tax) in Jerusalem, to be stuck in traffic jams in it and also to quarrel and argue about its character. We have merited to do so.