Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Yom Yerushalyim - It Still Stirs the Emotions

Rabbi Shlomo Goren at the Kotel - 1967
I will never forget it. It was June of 1967, the ‘Summer of Love’ so nicknamed by the young people of my generation as many of them traveled to San Fransisco to do just that: make love. The Viet Nam War was in full bloom. A military draft was in place. Many young people my age were increasingly protesting it, growing their hair long, smoking pot, and becoming ‘Hippies’. Promiscuous behavior was the order of the day. Slogans included ‘Make love – Not war’ and ‘If it feels good, do it’.

I was 20 years old at the time and in studying at HTC. The news was unbelievable. The old city of Jerusalem had been liberated in a lightening war that Israel won in 6 days. Upon entering the area of our Holy Temple Colonel Mota Gur proclaimed ‘Har HaBayit Beyadenu - The Temple mount is in our hands.’ Shortly after that Chief army chaplain, Rabbi Shlomo Goren entered and blew the Shofar at the Kotel with a Sefer Torah in his hand.

If you we not alive then or too young to remember, you cannot possibly know the joy that was felt by just about every Jew. To say that most Jews were euphoric would be an understatement.

The 6 Day War (as it was to be called) was seen as one of the most brilliantly executed victories of modern times. Generals all across the globe marveled at the strategy and tactics of a people, though outnumbered 40 to 1, won a war so quickly and with so few casualties. Stories about open miracles abounded then.

I thought the Jews had finally arrived. The nations of the world would never look at us the same way. 2000 years of Antisemitism would be replaced by envy and applause and the sense that justice has been served.  That was indeed how we were perceived back then. Being proud to be a Jew spread to all of us. Wearing a Kipa was a badge of honor and pride.  Many young secular Jews took that pride and began to examine their heritage. Jews with little or no background became motivated to visit the ‘new’ Israel to discover what Judaism was all about.

Those were heady days.

Of course those feelings didn’t last as long as I would have liked them to. A lot has happened since then. But on this day, the anniversary of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) recapturing the holiest place on earth for the Jewish people after 2000 years in exile, those memories still stir my emotions.