Celebrating Yom Yerushalayim

Today is Yom Yerushalayim. It is a Yom Tov. I recited Hallel in shul - with a berakhah.

This year 5772, a few weeks ago, I made a sad trip (with my brother, sister and son) to Jerusalem to accompany my father's remains on El Al and to inter him in his final place of rest at Har Hamenuchot in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, gush yud, chelka bet, shura tet.

My father, Zev Zahavy, loved Israel, and especially Jerusalem. He owned two apartments there. He visited many times. He now rests there next to his wife and near his brother and his parents, all of blessed memory.

Here is how last year in 5771 we described our happier celebration in Jerusalem:

44 years ago in the Six Day War the IDF took the Old City in a fierce battle and united Jerusalem under a single government. From our point of view as a young Orthodox Yeshiva student at the time, this accomplishment was a great miracle. The old city of Jerusalem under Jewish control meant that the historical places of our people were again accessible to us, including the Temple Mount, or at least the Western Wall. A year later in 1968 we came to visit Israel and Jerusalem for the first time.

We were just in Jerusalem Israel to celebrate the wedding of the son of a friend and thought, how do we commemorate this special day? And we had to do most of the celebrating a day early, because we were returning to New Jersey on a midnight flight last night and would miss the main activities of the day today. Bad trip planning, but no matter, there were workarounds.

First yesterday we went with super-guide Asher Altshul to explore the city of David excavations just outside the old city. Asher showed us the site from top to bottom and provided rich up-to-the-minute explanation and interpretation. He took us to the Herodian excavations in the Jewish Quarter next and gave us his expert guidance capped off by a summary of his own research. A truly great way to make Jerusalem Day meaningful. We added a visit on our own to the restored Hurva Synagogue, a magnificent job of rebuilding.

We took the long way back to our hotel to avoid the traffic jams in the city that had already started in the afternoon prior to the holiday. That allowed us to see all of the impressive new construction of the past few years. Most obvious is the new light rail, completed but not yet open to riders. During the day the authorities run the rail on schedule throughout the city with no passengers. We guess this allows for the adjustment of the system to balance and assess the functioning of the system and it's impact on traffic flow. In any case when it opens in August it will take one of the world's oldest cities into a new era of technology and transportation.

But how we thought can we celebrate this holiday on it's eve before we embark to the airport? Our favorite hotel is just a few blocks from the Mercaz Harav Kook yeshiva. We decided to go there for maariv evening services. This venue combines the best of Zionist Orthodox fervor. Our friends warned us to get there early since it is always packed for the davening of Jerusalem Day.

We got there and waited in line to be screened. The man next to us in line turned out to be a classmate of ours whom we had not seen in 38 years. We got caught up quickly. The Yeshiva gatekeepers clearly wanted to let the students in first and waved them ahead of us. That seemed right. We did at last get in after careful screening, including a gunpowder check of our hands. Apparently Bibi Netanyahu was scheduled to appear to speak after services amid the night's festivities and that meant precautions had to be high.

The prayers were outstanding. A sea of white-shirted Yeshiva boys, led by a chazan, chanted a few Psalms and select verses of liturgy and said the regular evening prayers. It was moving.

We couldn't stay to hear Bibi. (Link to a report about his speech in Haaretz.) Our ride to the airport was waiting. We bought a knitted kippah on the way out of the Yeshiva.

To cap off the day, we discovered the free wi-fi at the majestic Ben Gurion airport. Thinking back to our first trip in 1968 we could not help but admire the amazing accomplishments of the past 44 years in Israel, from the airport and the light rail and so much more infrastructure, to the economic, social and political advances over the period, despite enormous obstacles.

Halleluyah. Happy Yom Yerushalayim!

Sent from my iPad

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