May 13, 2018

The Lesson of Yom Yerushalayim

51 years ago our people learned an important lesson about themselves and their destiny.
It started in a cleaners’ room in the basement of the Knesset to which the 1967 war cabinet had evacuated under Jordanian artillery shelling. On the way in, Menachem Begin took prime minister Levi Eshkol to one side and said: “We should discuss liberating the Old City”. Israel had pressed Jordan to stay out of the war if they knew what was good for them but Egypt’s President Nasser had convinced the Jordanian king that he was actually winning the war and pressed for continued shelling and pressure on West Jerusalem.
Begin saw the perfect opening and opportunity to liberate the Temple Mount and Old City, with full legal justification as territory captured in a defensive war. And from that tiny basement room came the order to retake Yerushalayim.
The lesson was: “We can do this !”
Al Tirah Avdi Yaakov. Fear not Jacob … God is with you.
The significance of this lesson should not be lost on us today. For, between those heady days of such a stunning victory in 6 days, the trebling of our territory and reunification of our eternal capital under the flag if Israel … between those days and now, we have seen repeated efforts to surrender those very territories, and out of nothing but fear. Fear of American presidents, European sanctions, BDS and, most of all, fear that the West Bank Arabs would turn us into a minority in our own democracy. As the old saying goes: We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
And so, for all those reasons, leaders like Barak and Olmert tried to outdo themselves in offering the surrender of 96 percent, 97 percent … as if they were talking about so much body fat they couldn’t wait to shed.
Barak handed over South Lebanon to Hezbollah and Sharon gifted Gush Katif to Hamas. As for Olmert, he was prepared to cede Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem to international control, and give the Golan back to the Assad family. Just imagine Iran’s Kuds Force staring down from the Golan Heights today!
For all this Jews need to invent a totally new blessing: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who protecteth Israel from its own leaders.”
These prime ministers of Israel, however great their service to the country in all other respects, failed the Jewish people at those crucial moments when they needed to say: “We can still do this!”
Sharon paid for his mistake with his life. Olmert with the ignominy of jail time. The heavenly jury is still out on Barak. But the message is simple: don't mess with the promised land.
Remember Queen Esther who had to be pressed by Mordechai to stand up for her people and put her fears of the King and Haman to one side. As the Megillah tells it: “If you will remain silent – relief and deliverance for the Jews will come from another place – and who knows if you attained royalty just for a moment as this?”
And true enough, relief and deliverance - Revach Ve’hatzalah – did indeed come from another place.
And this was in the form of Donald Trump.
Just imagine if Barak and Olmert had prevailed in their time. Along comes new President Trump in 2016 and says to Bibi: “So sad. I would have recognised Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem if only you hadn’t given it away so quickly.”
The lesson of Yom Yerushalayim is to keep saying: “Yes, we can do this!” This is our time in history. We have been blessed as the generation which lived to see the liberation of our homeland. We must not fail our children as its custodians.
With God’s help we have seen off every mortal threat deployed against us, from rockets to tunnels to burning kites. And with the miracle of the Israeli birth rate having overtaken the Arabs’, we will debunk the demographic threat as well.
Am Yisrael Chai.
Jerusalem, the light of the world – ours forever.
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