Jerusalem Day will be a vacation day, if a bill proposed by MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi) becomes law.
Chetboun submitted the bill this week ahead of the holiday on Wednesday, pointing out that in recent years, Jerusalem Day has become more of a holiday for religious Zionists and less one for the general population.
Jerusalem Day marks “a significant event in the history of all of Israel, and this day cannot become sectorial,” Chetboun stated.
“Turning it into a vacation day will give it the appropriate place in the Israeli experience, as a national holiday for all of us like Independence Day, Remembrance Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day,” he said. “I hope that next year, every home in Israel will celebrate the unification of Jerusalem.”
Chetboun worked with Zionist education NGO Im Tirzu in formulating the legislation.
“Jerusalem is the hope of generations for thousands of years. We prayed to it and longed for it.... Jerusalem belongs to all of us. There is consensus in the Israeli public against dividing Jerusalem,” the MK posited.
On Tuesday, the Knesset dedicated the “United Jerusalem Room,” in which the government in 1967 voted to unite the city by annexing east Jerusalem.
Levi Eshkol was prime minister at the time, and then-minister- without-portfolio Menachem Begin, who was to become premier 10 years later, was also in the meeting, along with his daughters Lea and Hassia.
Begin asked in his will that the room in which the historic decision was made be preserved.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein pointed out that the ceremonial vote took place in a basement room because the area around the Knesset was being shelled and shot at.
“Only once we’re here, in this little room, can we internalize the fragile image of Jerusalem before it was united and liberated,” Edelstein said. “We are closing a circle and fulfilling Begin’s will.”
The room will be included in Knesset tours along with visual aids meant to help visitors feel as though they experienced the significant vote for themselves.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat remembered the city’s unification, though he was only seven years old at the time, and said he is committed to keeping it that way.
“In an unstable Middle East, Israel is an island of sanity and Jerusalem is the diamond in its crown,” Barkat said. “This is a holiday for the soul, the city and those who love it, and a great time to thank the brave people who fought and those who made decisions in this room.”