newsJewish & Israeli Holidays

Tens of thousands gather in capital for Jerusalem Day

“We returned home, to the holy city, to the heart of our people,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Thousands of Jews celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall, June 5, 2024. Photo by Troy Osher Fritzhand.
Thousands of Jews celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall, June 5, 2024. Photo by Troy Osher Fritzhand.

Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Jerusalem on Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary of the reunification of the holy city under Jewish rule.

“We are gathering today in Jerusalem, the capital of united Israel. Fifty-seen years ago, in the Six-Day War, we experienced a historic miracle. We returned home, to the holy city, to the heart of our people,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony marking the day at the Bible Lands Museum.

“Then, as today, we were surrounded by enemies. They thought to suffocate us, to wipe us off the map. But we are an ancient people, a people of brave warriors, we stood up as one man and defended ourselves.”

The premier highlighted the growth of the city, including the hi-tech sector that is quickly gaining traction as an innovation center both in Israel and globally.

The main event of the day is the Flag March, a parade starting at the city center and making its way to the Western Wall by way of the Old City. The male marchers entered the Old City via Damascus Gate while the female participants used the Jaffa Gate.

The sometimes hectic, mostly uplifting march saw crowds of men, women, children and even toddlers singing and dancing their way through the historic corridors en route to the holiest site to the Jewish people.

This year’s celebration comes as war continues to rage against terrorists in the Gaza Strip and daily rocket fire from Lebanon.

Netanyahu mentioned this in his remarks, pledging total victory over Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in the north.

Moshe Feiglin, a former Knesset member and current head of the Zehut Party, spoke to JNS at the head of the March. “The war today is over Jerusalem. They [Hamas] told us that by calling their attack [on Oct. 7] Al-Aqsa Storm.

“We have to understand the war isn’t about the borders, it’s about Temple Mount, the Jewish people, and all civilization, and we are on the front lines of [the fight] for civilization,” Feiglin said.

‘Jerusalem is ours’

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attended the march, speaking to reporters outside the Old City.

“I came back here for one thing: to convey a message to Hamas and to every house in Gaza and the north … Jerusalem is ours. Damascus Gate is ours. Temple Mount is ours,” he said.

Ben-Gvir added that his policies have allowed free entry of Jews to all parts of the Old City, including prayer on the Temple Mount (something forbidden under the “status quo”).

“We say in the simplest way, it is ours,” the minister said.

Netanyahu pushed back on this, his office releasing a message saying, “The status quo on the Temple Mount has not changed and will not change.”

Marchers came from all over the country, including busloads of Israelis from Judea and Samaria. Those who spoke to JNS expressed their excitement of being there, many of them first-timers to the annual march.

At the conclusion of the march at the Western Wall, the attendees danced together to classical Jewish songs, everyone carrying Israeli flags.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich addressed those gathered at the Western Wall.

Directing his remarks to the prime minister, he said, “Go to war with Hezbollah, subdue it, destroy it, move the security strip from the Galilee to Southern Lebanon. Let our heroic warriors win, restore our national honor, national pride and security and allow the heroic residents to return home safely.

“Mr. Prime Minister, the people of Israel are behind you! The powerful and deep living connection of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel begins from here in Jerusalem, from the Temple Mount, from history, from the divine promise from the Bible. We also understand this and derive faith, determination and strength from this and from this strengthen the IDF fighters. We will pursue our enemy and destroy them and we will not return home until they are all gone,” Smotrich said.

Of the tens of thousands in attendance, a few caused trouble, leading the arrest of 18 people, mostly teenagers.

The event was heavily protected, with some 3,000 police officers and border police maintaining order.

A police spokesperson before the event said “stringent security measures will be implemented, including aerial surveillance and undercover operations.”

Germany’s Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert wrote on X that these teens “do not speak of the deep spiritual connection to the city that Jews have felt for thousands of years. They speak of blind hate that these kids have been taught.”

Jerusalem Day, celebrated on 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, commemorates the reunification of the city during the 1967 Six-Day War, an event of profound historical and religious significance for the Jewish people, bringing all of Jerusalem under Jewish rule for the first time in nearly 2,000 years. 

Alongside the Bible Lands Museum event and the Flag March, celebrations included guided tours, lectures and cultural performances highlighting Jerusalem’s rich heritage.

According to data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of Jerusalem Day, the country’s largest city has surpassed one million residents, adding 13,400 residents last year, with most of the new residents coming from Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The latter two cities, plus Beitar Illit, were the localities that welcomed the most out-migration from Jerusalem.

Jerusalemites are as satisfied with their lives as the rest of Israelis, at 91% (93% for Jews and 86% for Arabs) compared 90% nationally. They are also satisfied with their work at 87%, versus 89% nationally.

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