The 28th of Iyar is the day that commemorates the liberation of Jerusalem. On this day in 1967, a squad of IDF paratroopers descended from the craggy slopes of the Mount of Olives; their destination – the Old City of Jerusalem.
Upon arrival, they scoured the eastern walls and entered the city through the Lions’ Gate. In all of Jerusalem’s 4000-year history, she had never been conquered from the east. This was the first time, and the air was pumping with excitement for what was to come.
Several years ago, I heard from Moshe Peled of Kibbutz Beit HaShita, who was one of the operation’s combat commanders, that throughout the descent from the Mount of Olives to the Western Wall, the atmosphere was so powerful with passion and emotion, that Rabbi Goren had difficulty blowing the shofar. One of the officers happened to be a trumpet player from the kibbutz, and he stepped in to assist.
However, there are many who may be unaware that three more great triumphs occurred on that very same day: The liberation of central Samaria, the Jordan Valley, and Gush Etzion. The day before, the army had liberated northern and western Samaria, and the following day on 29th Iyar, Judea, Hebron, and the Cave of the Patriarchs, was returned safely to our hands.
There are some who claim that those days mark the beginning of the “occupation,” but their opinion is unsubstantiated; most certainly not in line with the historical reality and international law. In fact, precisely the opposite occurred during the Six Day War: Israel put a stop to the occupation.
In order to expound on that point, we’d have to traverse the annals of history. I’d honestly prefer to begin with the ventures of Abraham, our forefather, however for the sake of this specific matter, let us go back to a little more than a century ago.
It was 1917 when Lord Balfour, the British foreign minister, issued an official declaration stating, “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object” without undermining “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The significance of this declaration is its recognition of the Jewish people’s national right to the Land of Israel, and of the civil and religious rights of other peoples.
The declaration obtained legal recognition at the San Remo conference in 1920, and once again through a 1922 decision of the Council of the League of Nations with respect to authorizing the British Mandate over Israel. These verdicts comprise the international legal foundation for the Jewish national right to a homeland in the Land of Israel, more than any other nation.
IN 1948, the State of Israel was established and Jordanian forces invade from the east, annexing and occupying a portion of Israeli territory.
Jordan occupied West Bank for 19 years
The Jordanians were prevented from advancing beyond the 1949 Israel-Jordan ceasefire lines. These lines served as a quasi-border between Israel, and Judea and Samaria, which were part of the areas pledged by the League of Nations to the People of Israel, and subsequently occupied by the Jordanians.
It took 19 years until the Six Day War brought about the end of Jordanian occupation in these territories. This was land held by Jordan contrary to international agreements.
In this light, the former legal status of the region was restored, backed by the Balfour Declaration, and the decisions made at the San Remo Conference and the League of Nations. Under those historical realities, the Jewish people hold national rights to Israel, and other groups are entitled to religious and civil rights.
Moreover, in 1994, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, together with then-King Hussein of Jordan, signed The Washington Declaration, the peace treaty that formally ended the state of war between Israel and Jordan. As per the provisions of the treaty, Jordan gave up Judea and Samaria.
What is remarkable, is that the treaty stipulates that no official state can claim ownership of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. This particular move gave weight to Israel’s ability and right to justifiably claim back the territories of Judea and Samaria, in light of past commitments and agreements.
Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel, is the only nation that can claim legal and historical ownership of the region. This right allows us to build and develop Judea and Samaria, and bring back our people to inhabit the Land, where they will prosper and thrive.
Celebrating the liberation of Jerusalem is also a celebration of the end of Jordanian occupation in Judea and Samaria, and reacquiring our Jewish national territory, of which this portion was no less the subject of our yearning and heartbreak, as well as an indisputable part of our rich and ancient heritage.
The aforementioned days should be celebrated as modern festivals by both Jews and non-Jews, to mark the end of a global moral injustice by which the people of Israel were expelled from their land thousands of years ago, but have now returned to their beloved Land of Israel, a homeland we can call our own.
The writer is founder and a board member of American Friends of Judea and Samaria, www.afjs.org, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to increasing knowledge, and sharing the truth about the Israeli communities of Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley to the general public. He is also a former CEO of the Yesha Council.