The Liberation of Jerusalem
By Charles E. McCracken
YOM YERUSHALAYIM—Happy Jerusalem Day!
As mortal beings, it’s impossible to foresee the outcome of events where the course of history is altered in a way we never anticipated. Yet, on Yom Yerushalayim—Jerusalem Day—such an outcome is commemorated.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s liberation from occupation and reunification—a decisive moment in the State of Israel’s modern history. Celebrated around the planet by all lovers of Zion, Yom Yerushalayim stands as a testament of Israel’s determination and perseverance in spite of the calculated objective of persistent enemies.
Tasked with carrying out the internationally approved responsibility of monitoring the Egyptian-Israeli ceasefire following the Suez Crisis, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) had been stationed at Sharm el-Sheikh since 1957.
Egypt—May 13, 1967
On May 13, 1967, Egypt began moving troops into the Sinai, an area from which Israel had withdrawn some nine years earlier in a peace deal with the Egyptians. On May 18, President Abdul Nasser audaciously ordered the United Nations Emergency Force to remove personnel from the Sinai. In a disgraceful move, the UNEF complied.
That same night, the Voice of the Arabs (transnational Arabic radio station) broadcast Nasser’s assertion:
“As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence” (1)
On May 22, at an Egyptian airbase in the Sinai, Nasser pronounced a blockade on Israeli shipping through the Suez Canal:
“We shall on no account allow the Israeli flag to pass through the Gulf of Akaba.” (2)
Syria—May 20, 1967
With his troops deployed on the border, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad quickly echoed similar sentiments.
“Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united. . . the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.” (3)
Iraq—May 31, 1967
Iraqi President Abdur Rahman Aref also weighed-in on May 31, 1967.
“The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. . . Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map.” (4)
With the Arab world clamoring for war, troops amassing on Israel’s borders and the Egyptian blockade of a major transportation link, Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan presented a plan to survive yet another intended war of annihilation.
Dayan urged Israel’s Unity Cabinet to act sooner than later.
With cabinet approval, Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol conferred and coordinated a preemptive attack to commence at 7:45 A.M. the next morning on Monday, June 5.
The first strike destroyed a third of Egypt’s air force and severely damaged military airfields.
Scrambling remaining planes, Egypt, Syria and Jordan launched an air attack combined with a ground invasion along the northern, eastern and southern borders of Israel.
Israel had air superiority and a solid chance of repelling the invading armies which became a decisive factor in the final outcome of the war. Before the end of the first day, more than 400 enemy planes had been destroyed.
Sharm el-Sheikh—June 7, 1967
Although defending attacks from every side, a principal objective during the war was to secure the strategic stronghold of Sharm el-Sheikh at the southern tip of Sinai to secure the straits of Tiran for Israeli shipping.
The plan was to take the fortress on June 7 using a combined airborne and naval assault. When it became obvious that a UN proposed cease-fire might indeed happen before the 7th, the timetable was accelerated. The naval force arrived before the other assault units and immediately reported, “there is no one here to fight!” (5)
The night before, the Egyptian army had given the order to fall back to the Suez Canal and Sharm el-Sheikh was evacuated. The stronghold was taken without a shot fired. The Sinai Peninsula was under Israeli control.
It was President Abdul Nasser who rejected the cease-fire resolution ordered by the United Nations Security Council. For the next 24 hours, he attempted to regain lost territory, but ultimately failed.
Judea and Samaria—June 8, 1967
The liberation of the biblical heartland was among the unforeseen outcomes of Israel’s defensive Six-Day War. At the beginning of the war Prime Minister Eshkol made assurances to Israel’s neighbors of Syria and Jordon.
“We shall not attack any country unless it opens war on us. Even now, when the mortars speak, we have not given up our quest for peace. We strive to repel all menace of terrorism and any danger of aggression to ensure our security and our legitimate rights.”(6)
When Jordan began shelling Jerusalem, King Hussein was urged by Israel to stay out of the conflict promising when,
“the firing stopped and Jordan refrained from any other warlike acts . . . Israel would honor the armistice agreement  with Jordan in its entirety.”(7)
Instead, Hussein was influenced by Nasser who convinced him that combining forces with Egypt would guarantee destruction of the Zionist state.
The Syrians continued launching rockets and mortars on Galilee while moving tanks into position. Jordan began shelling Jerusalem and other points along the armistice lines while a convoy of tanks approached to support Jordanian troops fighting around Jerusalem.
By the end of the third day of fighting, Israel had stopped Jordanian tank advances and pushed the enemy army back to the Jordan River.
Golan Heights—June 10, 1967
Since the beginning of the conflict, settlers in the Galilee had appealed to Moshe Dayan to authorize a military operation to secure the Golan Heights and end the nightmare reality of daily attacks from the Syrians.
Fearing possible reprisals if Russia came to the aid of the Syrians, Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Defense refused to issue the command. At 6:00 A.M. on the morning of June 9, however, Dayan had a change of heart.
Recognizing the disintegration of the Syrian defense as evidenced by soldiers fleeing their posts, Defense Minister Dayan issued an order to move into and defeat the Syrian army in the Golan Heights.
Dayan’s plan resulted in another unanticipated outcome that protected Galilee from persistent Syrian rocket and mortar attacks.
Jerusalem—June 7, 1967
At 7:00 A.M. on June 7, after two days of fighting a persistent enemy and fearing an imminent cease-fire, Dayan gave orders for Israeli troops to liberate the Old City of Jerusalem.
Later that morning, the Israeli army penetrated the Lion’s Gate and worked toward the Western Wall.
Col. Mordechai Gur’s field radio transmission reverberated throughout the State of Israel.
“The Temple Mount is in our hands!”
By noon that same day, the Old City and the Temple Mount were liberated.
FROM OCCUPATION TO LIBERATION
The Jewish state had not only regained sovereignty over the biblical heartland of Israel, but had also liberated the entire city of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount. Two men played a pivotal role in the aftermath of Jerusalem’s liberation on June 7, 1967.
Rabbi Shlomo Goren (February 3, 1917 – October 29, 1994)
Carrying a Shofar and a Torah scroll, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Chief Chaplain of the Israel Defense Forces, arrived at the Temple mount with IDF Chief of Staff Yitzak Rabin and Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan.
The Israeli flag was already flying from the Dome of the Rock when the IDF’s highest ranking religious leader blew the shofar signifying the liberation of the ancient city of Jerusalem. After reciting the 49th Psalm, Rabbi Goren recited the Shehecheyanu blessing,
“’Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us in life, who has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this day.’ This year in Jerusalem—rebuilt.’”(8)
Rabbi Goren’s fervent desire still echoes through the five decades since Jerusalem’s liberation.
Moshe Dayan—May 20, 1915 – October 16, 1981
Less than four hours after the Temple Mount was liberated, however, Moshe Dayan ordered the Israeli flag removed from the Dome of the Rock and commanded the liberating force to leave the Temple mount.
One journalist stated the case,
“This order initiated a schizophrenic diplomatic and political state of affairs that continues to this day.”(9)
Addressing the nation, Dayan declared:
“This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples’ holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity.”(10)
A few days later, in an equally confounding move, Dayan met with Mufti Saad al-Alami and Islamic leaders assuring Israeli protection of the area while offering to allow the Jordanian Wakf administrative control of the site.
Dayan’s move became the model for the “status quo” that persists to the present day; however, Israel’s sovereignty over the Temple Mount was never relinquished.
Israel Makes Concessions—Offers Rejected
When a cease-fire was ordered at 6:30 P.M. on June 10, Israel regained the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (“West Bank”) and the city of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.
For the first time in 19 years, Jewish people were able to enter the Old City of Jerusalem with access to the holiest and most revered sites in Israel—the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
On June 11, 1967, the UN brokered cease-fire took effect.
Despite offers of concessions to return land in exchange for recognition of Israel’s right to exist and guarantees of peaceful coexistence, two months later the Arab League adopted the Khartoum Resolution and the infamous “Three No’s” policy: of, “No peace with Israel, No negotiations with Israel and No recognition of it [Israel].” (11)
When Israel officially annexed East Jerusalem on June 27, 1967, the Arab inhabitants were given special permanent resident status and the option to become Israeli citizens, which the majority rejected.
RESPONDING TO THE FACTS
The truth as documented by the facts in recent history is inescapable. In a defensive war for survival, Israel pushed back persistent enemies obsessed with annihilation of the modern state of Israel and emerged victorious in 1967.
In what few could have imagined as an unanticipated outcome, Israel regained not only the Golan Heights, but also the Gaza Strip, the “West Bank” and Jerusalem—all areas that were in-point-of-fact illegally occupied by Egypt and Jordan. (12)
Today as Israel commemorates the liberation and reunification of King David’s ancient capital, you can join the celebration of this decisive event!
Here are a few suggestions for a memorable Yom Yerushalayim:
- Learn about Israel. It’s especially important for kids to understand the context of Scripture. Show them the connection to “The Land of the Bible” by studying Israel together.
- Dig into the rich culture and history of Israel available through Israel’s Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Foreign Affairs websites.
- Experience authentic cuisine via local Jewish restaurants. Get your family involved by searching online or at the library to put together your own Israeli dinner menu.
- Shop Israel locally. We were delighted to find a 5-pound bag of “Uncle Moses” brand carrots grown in the Negev at a produce vendor last week. These Israeli carrots are honey-sweet and taste like you pulled them out of the garden yourself! Earlier in the season, we enjoyed juicy persimmon also known as Sharon Fruit.
- Do a word study of “Jerusalem.” Read related Bible passages to conclude your Yom Yerushalayim celebration.
Let me suggest an appropriate verse for today’s celebration:
“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her” (Isa. 66:10).
Today is a great day to proudly stand in solidarity with the State of Israel by declaring what history makes acutely visible—the city of Jerusalem is Israel’s indivisible capital.
From my household to yours . . . Happy Jerusalem Day!
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Known for authentically communicating biblical truth, Rev. McCracken’s presentations are relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)
1) “Six Day War Background and Overview,” Jewish Virtual Library website.
2) Martin Gilbert, Israel: a History (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008) 368.
3) “Six Day War Background and Overview,” Jewish Virtual Library website.
4) DISPUTED TERRITORIES: Forgotten Facts About the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, February 1, 2003.
5) Martin Gilbert, Israel: a History (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008) 387.
6) “DISPUTED TERRITORIES, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
7) Gilbert, p 384.
8) “1967 Reunification of Jerusalem,” CAMERA committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America website.
9) Loewenberg, F.M., “Did Jews Abandon the Temple Mount?”, Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2013.
10) “Statement at the Western Wall by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
11) “Israel-Arab Peace Process: The Khartoum Resolutions,” Jewish Virtual Library website.
12) In 1920, Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill severed some 80 percent of the area allotted to the Jewish people for a homeland under the British Mandate of Palestine and gave it to Abdullah Hussein to create a new Arab emirate called Transjordan (later Jordan).
1) Yom Yerushalayim 2015. By Israeli Police Spokesperson Unit (Israeli Police Official Facebook) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) Lion’s Gate (circa. 1890-1900). (PD-US), via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
3) Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, General Rehavam Zeevi and General Uzi Narkis in the Old City of Jerusalem. By ILAN BRUNER, 07/06/1967, Government Press Office (GPO) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
4) Shlomo Goren as a young Israeli officer and Chief Rabbi of the Military Rabbinate of the IDF (01/03/1949). By Hans Pinn [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
5) Within days of liberating Jerusalem, Israel began clearing the Western Wall, the most sacred Jewish site. By יהודה גרינברג Pikiwiki Israel [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
6) Clearing the plaza in front of the Kotel – July 1967. By Olevy (Own work) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
7) The 25th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem. Yaakov Saar [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons – MKM Portfolios