Jerusalem Day, also known as Yom Yerushalayim, is an Israeli national holiday celebrated on the 28th day of Iyar, which is the eighth month according to the Hebrew calendar. This year, it falls on June 5. It commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City after the six-day war against the Jordanian forces in 1967. The day is marked with different events such as recitations of the Hallel prayer in Synagogues, lectures on the history of Jerusalem, street parades, parties, state ceremonies, and memorial services for those that died in the six-day war.
History of Jerusalem Day
Israel declared its independence in 1948 and shortly after that, it was attacked by Arab countries, resulting in the Arab-Israeli War which lasted from May 15, 1948, to March 10, 1949.
The war ended with an Israeli victory, Jordanian partial victory, and Palestinian and Egyptian defeats. In the aftermath of the war, Jerusalem was divided as Israeli forces controlled most of the city while East Jerusalem and the Old City were controlled by Jordanian forces.
The Old City housed a lot of religious monuments and was a very good location strategically. Places such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christian), the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque (Muslim), the Temple Mount and the Western Wall or Kotel (Jewish) amongst others were within the Old City and so Israeli forces sought to regain the place.
The six-day war between Israel and Jordan started on June 6, 1967, and the Old City was captured the next day. The end of the War on June 11 due to a cease-fire resulted in the reunification of Jerusalem as part of Isreal. On the Hebrew calendar, this day fell on the 28th day of the month of Iyar and is now used to commemorate Jerusalem day.
The next year in May 1968, the 28th of Iyar was set as a holiday to mark the unification of Jerusalem, and then years down the line in 1998, the Israeli government passed the Jerusalem Day Law to officially make the day a national holiday. The day continues to be celebrated by the Jewish community in and outside Israel. The day is not a public holiday, however, as businesses have normal opening hours.
Jerusalem Day timeline
Israel declares its independence and the Arab-Israeli war begins.
The Arab-Israeli war ends with an Israeli victory and a part Jordanian victory.
The six-day war between Israel and Jordan begins with Israel gaining control over the Old City.
The 28th day of Iyar is set as a holiday to mark the unification of Jerusalem
The Israeli government passes the Jerusalem Day Law to officially make the day a national holiday.
Jerusalem Day FAQs
What is the Hebrew name for Jerusalem?
The Hebrew name for Jerusalem is ‘Yerushalayim.’
What is the main language in Israel?
The main language in Israel is Hebrew.
How strong is Israel's military?
In 2022, Israel’s military strength is ranked 18 out of 142 countries.
How to Observe Jerusalem Day
Recite the Hallel prayer
Celebrate the day by receding the Hallel prayer. It is a prayer that is recited by observant Jews on Jewish holidays as an act of praise and thanksgiving.
Prepare a special meal
Prepare a special Jewish meal or visit a Jewish restaurant to eat a good Jewish meal. After all, what are celebrations without a feast?
Attend a street parade
Attend a street parade to celebrate the day. There’ll be lots of street parades, you just have to pick one to attend and have fun.
5 Interesting Facts About Jerusalem
It snows in Jerusalem
Israel is mostly desert but at an elevation of over 700 meters above sea level, Jerusalem tends to stay cool and even experiences snow.
It houses the world’s oldest cemetery
Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives is the oldest active burial site in the world and houses more than 150,000 Jewish graves.
It is a walled city
The walls of Jerusalem are about 2.5 miles long, 40 feet tall, and eight feet thick.
The structures look alike
Municipal law ensures that all structures in the city are covered in Jerusalem stone to preserve the historical look of the city.
The world’s fastest-growing high-tech hubs
Jerusalem is mostly known for its historical significance, but it has also been called the ‘Capital of Hi-Tech’ due to the numerous technological investments being made.
Why Jerusalem Day is Important
It teaches people about their history
Jerusalem Day ushers in teachings about how the day came about. People, especially the younger ones, get to understand their history.
It celebrates fallen heroes
The day celebrates those that fought to bring Jerusalem to where it is today. These fallen heroes should never be forgotten and Jerusalem Day celebrates them.
It preserves culture
Knowing the history of Jerusalem helps people see the need to preserve certain cultural values. Over time, some cultural values may be lost, but celebrations like these keep them in check.
Jerusalem Day dates