Yom Yerushaliyam…Jerusalem Day. It is one of Israel’s most celebratory days, as they commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem following the Six Day War. As a Christian, I have a yearning not only to understand this Israeli celebration, but to enter into it! It is an extraordinary milestone in Israel’s history and, for those of us who love and support Israel, it is well worth exploring. Thus, I invite you to join me on a journey over the next few days leading up to the 50th anniversary…the Jubilee Year…of the Six Day War victory of 1967.
Yom Yerushalayim, that day of celebration, falls on the 28th day of the Hebrew month Iyar, sandwiched in between Passover (6 weeks prior) and Pentecost (1 week later). The Hebrew day begins at sundown, so this year (on the Gregorian calendar) the celebration falls on May 23-24.
Victory in the Six Day War launched a new era for Israel, and the impact reaches into current news and events. So, our journey over the next few days will take us through:
- Israel’s Greatest Hour of Danger – what led up to the Six Day War
- Six Days that Changed Israel’s Future – events of the war
- Superpowers Face Off – US and Russian involvement in the Six Day War
- Six Days of Miracles – God brings the victory for Israel
- Biblical Significance of the Six Day War
- Aftermath of the Six Day War
Israel’s Greatest Hour of Danger
So, what triggered the Six Day War? To answer that question, let’s start from the beginning. According to Genesis 12 and 15 God called Abraham to be father of the Jews, and promised Abraham and Sarah they would have a son through whom the promise would descend. Beyond the age of childbearing, Abraham and Sarah “helped God out” by sending Sarah’s handmaiden, Hagar, into Abraham. Hagar bore a son, but Ishmael was not the son of promise.
God, then, did the impossible by causing Sarah to conceive a son through Abraham. Isaac, the son of promise, was born, and God confirmed all the Abrahamic promises to Isaac (and his son, Jacob). But, the contention between the line of Isaac (Jews) and the line of Ishmael (Arabs) continues to this day.
Fast forward through a lot of cantankerous history to 70 AD. The Romans ruled with an iron fist and ultimately destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, driving the Jews out. From that day forward, the Temple itself ceased to exist and the Jews lost control of Temple Mount…their most sacred site.
A succession of regimes conquered and ruled the land after that, but no one really wanted the land because, after the dispersion of Jews, it became either swampy or barren (depending upon the area). (Coincidence? I don’t think so!)
Another fast forward takes us to 1947. The British ruled the land at the time, but were scheduled to pull out in 1948. Thus, the land was “up for grabs,” and claimed by both Arabs and Jews. (Remember, I told you the contention between the two continues to this day!) The UN proposed the Partition Plan, for the most part, granting Arabs the best of the land, while leaving the barren portions to the Jews. The Jews said okay, the Arabs rejected the deal. (They wanted it all.) Thus, the Jews, in need of a homeland to which all could return, quickly declared Israeli statehood on May 14, 1948.
On May 15, they were attacked by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The newborn nation was at war on day 1, without an official military, and out-numbered in every way. Yet, God was on her side! It is a story in itself, but suffice it to say that the Jewish nation not only survived, but was overwhelmingly victorious. However, part of the peace agreement was that Jordan would control Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall. The city was divided and Israel still did not control her holiest site.
Frustrated and embarrassed by the defeat, Arab leaders vowed to destroy Israel. They gave it another try in 1956 (Suez War) and were soundly defeated again by the Israelis (and their miracle-working God!) But remember, I told you the contention between Arabs and Jews continues to this day. So what did the Arabs do? They tried again!
The next try was the Six Day War. Bound and determined to drive the Jews out of the land, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arab nations began planning a mighty military operation. Yet, word got out to Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. Knowing that Israel’s very existence was at stake, he notified US President Lyndon Johnson that Israel faced its “greatest hour of danger,” and was at war. It was a gutsy move, as Johnson was not especially pro-Israel. What occurred as a result was a miracle…but you’ll have to stay tuned for that!
To cut to the chase, Israel won the war (I’ll tell you how tomorrow!), and conquered the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, tripling the size of Israel!
But the prized conquest: Jerusalem and Temple Mount! For the first time since the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Jews were back in control of Temple Mount, and Jerusalem was reunified under Israeli control! That is what Israel celebrates on Yom Yerushalayim!
So, there you have it: the skeleton on which we will add the “meat” over the next few days! As Israel prepares to celebrate, I pray that our knowledge grows so that we might join in their excitement. We’ve got much more ground to cover, so stick with me for a few days! Meanwhile, join Christians from around the world in congratulating Jerusalem on her Jubilee Year!