By Rav Ilan Goldman 


As the chagim and the moadim pop up in the cycle of the Jewish calendar, we find ourselves focusing and contemplating on a variety of topics. As Yom Yerushalayim is rapidly approaching, it is time to delve into a fundamental question – what is so special about Yerushalayim that we pray and yearn for her so much? What is it that makes Yerushalayim so central in our faith?

Kohelet teaches us that in order to fully appreciate something, we must, at times, experience or learn about what we are missing without it. וְרָאִיתִי אָנִי שֶׁׁיֵּּשׁ יִתְרוֹן לַחָכְמָה מִן הַסִּכְלוּת כִּיתְרוֹן הָאוֹר מִן הַחֹשֶׁׁךְ ‘And I saw that wisdom has an advantage over folly, as the advantage of light over darkness’. (Kohelet 2:13) Rav Kook once wrote ‘If we were destroyed, and the world with us, due to baseless hatred, then we shall rebuild ourselves, and the world with us, with baseless love — ahavat chinam’.

When there is peace and harmony within our nation we merit having Yerushalayim. When there is hatred and war amongst brothers – we lose that merit. Am Yisrael lost Yerushalayim because of hatred. We did not let Yerushalayim’s influence to unite us, for that is exactly the role of the holy city as the Talmud Yerushalmi teaches: ‘ ‘יְרוּשָׁלִַם הַבְּנוּיָה כְּעִיר שֶׁׁחֻבְּרָה לָּהּ יַחְדָּו – the built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together within itself” (Tehillim 122:3). A city that makes all of Israel into friends’. (Chagigah 2:5)

Indeed, we may see that Yerushalayim is the source of unity for Am Yisrael. This idea is expressed in the fact that even though the Land of Israel was divided into twelve and split up between the tribes of Israel, Yerushalayim was not given to any particular tribe and remained ‘belonging’ to all parts of the nation. It was Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriya, one of Bnei Akiva’s founders and greatest role models, who pointed out a very interesting fact which expresses this very idea:

The State of Israel was founded and Yerushalayim was made its capital. However, its heart was missing – the old city fell into the hands of the Jordanians and Jews were not allowed in. Nineteen years later – the six day war broke out, and Yerushalayim was reunited. Rav Neriya touches on a historical question – why did we not merit having the old city as part of Israel in the first place? His answer is not on a military strategic level, but is most profound. In the War of Independence, as we lost the Old City, we were not fighting for it as a united nation. We had different movements fighting against the Jordanians, but not unified forces. Essentially, we were still split amongst ourselves. However, during the Six Day War when the nation was united and all came together in one army – it was then that we succeeded. Yerushalayim cannot tolerate division; when the nation is split – Yerushalayim is out of reach. When the nation is united – Yerushalayim can be at the heart of that unity.

Someone once mentioned to me how sad it was that the place that is supposed to unite us is the place which causes the most friction in our nation. I feel that Yom Yerushalayim is a good time to stop and look beyond the here and now; the politics, the conflict, the arguments, and connect to the eternal – והנצח זו ירושלים ‘“and the eternity” – this refers to Jerusalem’, and recognise what Yerushalayim really means and what potential it has.

Perhaps if we learn to truly appreciate just this one aspect of Yerushalayim; of how in essence it unites our nation, we will then yearn for Yerushalayim to be fully rebuilt and for Hashem to dwell within her yet again:

‘You shall arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yes, the set time has come. For your servants take pleasure in her stones and embrace the dust thereof’ (Tehillim 102:13-14).

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