Jerusalem Day is a national holiday marking the reunification of the city after the Six Day war in 1967. In May 1968, it was decided to mark the event with a day celebrating the unification of the city and the Jewish peoples’ connection with Jerusalem throughout the ages.
Some brief historical background, courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism: “Jerusalem was divided from the War of Independence in 1948 until 1967. The western part of the city was in Israeli hands, and the eastern part — excluding an Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus — was under the control of the Jordanian kingdom. After the eastern part of the city was liberated, the walls dividing the city were torn down and three weeks later the Knesset enacted legislation unifying the city and extending Israeli sovereignty over the eastern part”.
On Independence Day 1968 — 20 years after the War of Independence — the Israel Defense Forces marched in Jerusalem with a display of might that included American-manufactured Bradley tanks, Hawk land-air missiles, Jeeps, armored personnel carriers and more…
The IDF also showed off some of the Russian-made weaponry captured from Egypt during the ’67 war.
A newsreel about the celebration describes the scene: “Only months ago, these Soviet and Czechoslovak tanks, guns and rocket carriers were deployed around Israel’s borders to strike a fatal blow, to carry out the daily threats of destruction by our Arab neighbors. Today, they too take their place in the celebration, captured intact in their hundreds and thousands in the Six Day War”.
“The huge Long Tom guns, the Russian Katyusha rocket launchers, the ground-to-air SAM missiles… Moscow made and sent as gifts to Egypt’s army… received with thanks by the Israel Defense Forces in the Sinai wilderness”.
Over the years, Jerusalem Day has developed its own set of traditions. There is the main ceremony, held on Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, one of the sites of the harshest fighting in the battle over the city. There is the March of the Flags, in which thousands of people walk through the Old City, and end the day with speeches, concerts and celebration. Also on this day, immigrants from Ethiopia hold ceremonies to commemorate those Ethiopian Jews who died making their way to Israel — and Jerusalem.