Not everyone who celebrates on Jerusalem Day are extremists - opinion

Jerusalem Day is a day for Israel to take pride in the reunification of Jerusalem after it was recaptured in the Six Day War.

 CELEBRANTS MARCH on Jerusalem Day toward the Old City. No mention was made of the myriads like us who were there to celebrate our pride in, and love for, Jerusalem, write the authors. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
CELEBRANTS MARCH on Jerusalem Day toward the Old City. No mention was made of the myriads like us who were there to celebrate our pride in, and love for, Jerusalem, write the authors.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

We are not extremists. Yet we proudly participated in the celebrations in Jerusalem, on Jerusalem Day.

We firmly believe the majority of those who participated in the Flag March intended to celebrate, not to incite. Like us, they did not support and certainly did not participate in any provocative actions.

Let us state what should be obvious.

We adamantly oppose acts of violence against innocent people – be they Jews, Muslims or Christians. We believe in the rights of all people. We reject those individuals who shouted “death to the Arabs” and other racist slogans. We decry those who banged on the shuttered stores of the Shuk. We denounce those who may have attacked bystanders without provocation.

Jerusalem Day stands for...

 Celebratory dancing at the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Celebratory dancing at the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Jerusalem Day is a proud day. We take pride in Israel’s reunification of the city during the Six Day War. We also strongly support the continued existence of a unified Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

Our pride and support stem from two main sources…

First and foremost, Jerusalem is our holy city and has been for millennia; tracing back to events in life of the Patriarch Abraham, the progenitor of the Jewish people.

Secondly, we learn from history. The only time when unfettered access within the city has been granted to people of all faiths has been since the day the city was reunited by the Israeli Defense Forces. Jerusalem today features fully functioning synagogues, mosques and churches. Jews pray at the Western Wall, Muslims worship in the Mosque of Omar, Christians pray in the Church of the Ascension.

These scenes stand in clear contrast to those which existed before the Six Day War. During the decades of Jordanian control of the Old City of Jerusalem the “Jewish Quarter” was razed. Synagogues were completely destroyed. Jewish holy sites were desecrated in unimaginable ways. You will pardon us if we don’t trust a return to the time when the city was in the hands of others.

As such, Jerusalem Day is celebrated by us as an historically momentous day. Though we cannot see into the hearts of others, we believe this is the sentiment shared by the vast majority of those who participated in the march.

It is regrettable that this pride in our history was overshadowed by the objectionable actions of a few. Reports in the press gave the impression that thousands and thousands of Israeli extremists and provocateurs paraded through the streets of Jerusalem last Sunday, all intent upon humiliating the Arab population of the city. No mention was made of the myriads like us who were there to celebrate our pride in, and love for, Jerusalem.

I suppose that means that there is work to be done in order to reclaim the celebrations of Jerusalem Day. We, and those who agree with us, will have to become more vocal, so that the pride of the day drowns out the voices furthering their own extreme agenda.

But, you have to wonder whether or not such efforts will ultimately prevail. In a world where reported news tends to be spun to fit the “newscaster’s” preconceived point of view; where the items that make it to the news desk are generally those on the extreme; where nuance has been totally lost in the marketplace of ideas… can a complex point of view ever be publicly projected?

One thing we do know, is that we have to try. We will continue to celebrate Jerusalem Day for the right reasons in the years to come. And, who knows? If more and more like-minded individuals openly celebrate with us, perhaps the glory of a unified Jerusalem will be properly projected to the world.

Shmuel Goldin is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey and served for two terms as president of the Rabbinical Council of America.

Reuven Tradburks served as congregational rabbi in North America most recently in Toronto and presently serves as the director of the Israel Region of the RCA.

The views expressed in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Rabbinical Council of America.