Also known as
the 28th of Iyyar in the Hebrew calendar (since 1968)
The Israeli government on May 12th, 1968
Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim, commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem under Israel's control in 1967. Jerusalem became the Jewish capital around 1000 BCE after it was conquered by King David, who made it his seat of government. It was conquered twice more during antiquity, the second time being by the Romans in 70 CE, after which the Jews were exiled. But Jerusalem remained their spiritual capital.
After the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, Jerusalem was divided. The newer, western side came under Israeli control, while the eastern half—the "Old City"—came under the control of Jordan. During the Six-Day War in June 1967, Israel captured the historical eastern half, and all of Jerusalem came under the control of Israel for the first time in a thousand years. Jews could then access holy sites, such as the Western Wall, which is part of the ancient Temple.
On May 12, 1968, the Israeli government voted to create Jerusalem Day to symbolize "the continued historical connection of the Jewish People to Jerusalem." It is marked on the 28th day of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which Jerusalem was reunited, which is six weeks after the Passover seder and one week before the eve of Shavuot. Jerusalem Day became a national holiday in Israel after the "Jerusalem Day Law" was passed on March 23, 1998, which said "the Knesset hereby declares that the 28th day of the month Iyar is Jerusalem Day and will be celebrated yearly as a national holiday and will be called 'Jerusalem Day.'"
A newer addition to the Hebrew calendar, Jerusalem Day doesn't have a set of rituals that must be followed. It has become a "pilgrimage" day when Israelis head to Jerusalem—many by hiking—as a symbol of solidarity with the city. State ceremonies and memorial services are held and the Yakir Yerushalayim award is given out. During the preceding week, schools focus on the history and geography of the city, and the role the city has played for the Jewish people since ancient times is studied. Hallel, or "psalms of praise," are often recited on the day, as is the lengthy Pesukei d'Zimra.
Jerusalem Day is most often celebrated inside of Israel, but not so much outside of it. It has not yet attained the status of other Jewish holidays. Some Jews prefer not to celebrate it because of continuing conflicts regarding Jerusalem's partitioning, while others embrace it. Religious Zionists observe it, while most secular Israelis do not.
How to Observe Jerusalem Day
Some ways you could observe the day include:
- Travel to Jerusalem and visit Jewish holy sites such as the Western Wall, and attend ceremonies and memorial services dedicated to the day taking place in the city.
- Read Hallel or a book about the history of Jerusalem.
- Watch a documentary such as Six Days in June or Jerusalem.