Har HaBayit B'Yadenu!
King David captured her. He made her the capital of the Kingdom of Israel. Solomon built the First Temple on her holy ground. She was called the City of David, the Jewish capital, the Holy Center. O Jerusalem.
For 400 years Jerusalem stood as the capital of the kingdom. Then in 586 BCE it happened. Jerusalem was sacked, conquered and destroyed. This time it was the Babylonians, but they were the first of many. During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.
The Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British all have has their time in Jerusalem. For 2000 years Jews were either not permitted in Jerusalem or lived there under severe, tyrannical restrictions, even up through the 20th century British Mandate; at the Kotel (The Western Wall), the holiest Jewish site, those who dared to sound the shofar were arrested and imprisoned.
In 1947 the United Nations General Assembly voted to release Jerusalem from any one group. In the Partition Plan for Palestine the British were to leave and the whole area was to be divided into two nation-states: one Jewish controlled and one Arab controlled. Jerusalem was to be an international city, controlled by the United Nations. While many Zionists were against not having Jerusalem as their capital they agreed to a compromise as long as, "it would make possible the immediate re-establishment of the Jewish State with sovereign control of its own immigration."
The British, forced by international law, left Palestine. Directly after on May 14, 1948 the announcement of the independence of the state of Israel was made. Israel was instantaneously attacked by five Arab counties. Almost immediately, all of the Old City fell to the Jordanian army. The Jewish residents were once again exiled. The men were taken as prisoners of war and the women, children and elderly banished ironically through Zion Gate. Their homes were looted and burned as they fled. The war ended in 1949 with a series of armistices.
After the ceasefire in 1949 Jerusalem was proclaimed the capital of Israel, even though they knew the Old City would still be out of reach. David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, declared: “The value of Jerusalem cannot be measured, weighed, or put into words. If a land has a soul, Jerusalem is the soul of the Land of Israel.”The Knesset was moved to Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. As anticipated, Jordan prevented access to the Western Wall and Mount Scopus, in violation of the 1949 Armistice Agreement.
The new city of Jerusalem was a city divided between Israel and Jordan. While the new Israeli portion of the city grew and became everything a nation’s capital should be: a bustling center of government, education and culture, its heart was missing. Surrounded by barbed wire and armed men, the Old City was a No Man’s Land, left forsaken to decay.
The Old City, the heart of the Jewish people, was only visited through prayers and longings. The haunting song by Naomi Shemer, Jerusalem of Gold, became an anthem for this yearning as Psalms 137 became a regular part of our prayers. This was the way for 19 years.
In June 1967 Syria, Jordan and Egypt attacked Israel launching the region back into outright war. Even though Israel had been battling the Jordanians along the border of the Old City and Israel was confident having won miraculous victories throughout every front, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was hesitant to send troops into the Old City. The city’s ancient walls had prevented Israeli forces from taking her in 1948, and the cost might be too high for what would most likely be a futile endeavor.
However, on the third day of the Six-Day War Dayan received intelligence that the UN was going to force a ceasefire abruptly ending the conflict. IDF command suddenly realized that this just might be their only chance to take the Old City. Detailed military plans had been formed for how to take just about every hill and block in Jerusalem, except the Old City. Hurriedly a plan was formed.
Mordechai "Motta" Gur was ordered to command the 55th Paratrooper Brigade and take the Old City. Gur knew what a massive order this was. After 2000 years he would be commanding the Jewish forces that could bring all of Jerusalem back to Jewish sovereignty. Before entering the Old City he rallied his troops with the words, “We’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City...”
The 55th entered through Lion’s Gate. They fought hand to hand through the ancient streets as command would not allow the use of artillery so not to damage the Old City. Surprisingly they met with less resistance than expected and hurtled themselves towards the Temple Mount.
Suddenly a voice cried out on radios in bomb shelters, bunkers and bases throughout Israel. The voice was Motta Gur saying the immortal words, “Har habayit b’yadenu”… “ the Temple Mount is in our hands!”
And so she was captured once again, this time coming full circle from King David to the IDF. Fierce Jewish warriors defending the heart of the Jewish People and the soul of Israel.