No trip to Israel can be complete without a visit to Jerusalem. This unique city, home to three major world religions, contains more than we can begin to imagine…astonishing museums, extraordinary landscapes, magnificent churches, mosques and synagogues and streets that have existed for thousands of years. Jerusalem has experienced conquests, destructions, disasters and triumphs – in short, it is a city like no other.
‘Jerusalem Day’ – also known as ‘Yom Yerushalayim’ in Hebrew – is a national holiday in Israel, held to remember the city’s reunification after the Six Day War in 1967. It is always a happy time, with endless events held for locals and visitors alike, but this year it was a particularly joyous occasion.
Because this week, Jerusalem is commemorating a 50 year anniversary – that of the reunification of the city. In 1967, after the Six Day War, East Jerusalem was captured by the Israeli Army and for the first time since the state of Israel had been established, the Temple Mount and ‘Kotel’ came back under Jewish control. Below is the iconic David Rubinger photo, capturing the look of wonderment on Israeli paratroopers’ faces as they enter the Old City after almost 20 years of being forbidden to go travel there and pray at Judaism’s most holy site – the Western Wall.
No surprise then that the celebrations in the capital were even livelier than normal this last week, with four days of events that included live music, exhibitions, streets parties, workshops and concerts. Festivities began last Saturday night, when thousands of people gathered at the edge of the Old City, in order to see its walls lit up in blue and white, the colours of the Israeli flag. With the use of an audio projector, a sound and light show was beamed onto the walls, depicting not just the Israeli flag but iconic images from the Six Day War. A trip down memory lane for older residents and a fine history lesson for younger ones.
On Tuesday evening. the Jerusalem Symphonic Orchestra performed free at Safra Square – a festive concert with many songs about Jerusalem included. For late night revellers, the celebrations went way into the night with a street party at Zion Square, on Jaffa Street, followed by a sunrise concert at 5am by Idan Raichel, a much-loved Israeli singer.
And these weren’t the only musical events this week either – “Dancing Flags” concerts were held all over the city, with song bands and orchestras accompanying the performers. And on Wednesday itself, Nir Barkat, the Mayor of Jerusalem, held a reception at the Tower of David Museum. Open to all, residents were invited to who up and enjoy a program of singers, the Andalusian Orchestra and guided tours of the area. A few hours later, the ‘Jerusalem March’ began, with thousands of participants waving flags and singing, as they walked the distance from the New to the Old City.
For a better idea of how central Jerusalem is to the identity of so many Israelis, it’s worth taking a look at the video just created by film makers Yair Moss, Danielle Zini and Udi Kislasi, for “Mekudeshet” – the annual fall music festival held by the Jerusalem Season of Culture. The idea, they said, was to portray Jerusalem with all its complexities…voices, sounds, colors…sites holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews…an attempt to depict just how diverse the people and the neighbourhoods of this city actually are. Watch it here…
…and then make a trip to the astonishing city of Jerusalem, and see for yourself.