An event celebrating Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), the Israeli holiday marking the reunification of Jerusalem, was held, May 21, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC).
Held two days before Yom Yerushalayim began on the evening of May 23, this year’s celebration marked the 50th anniversary of the capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and the reunification of the city which had been divided since the 1948 War of Independence.
Canaf Ahituv and Noga Weiss, Ottawa’s Shinshinim – young emissaries to the community from the State of Israel – organized and hosted the event on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and neither could hold back their emotions while describing what it was like visiting Jerusalem with their families each year in order to take part in the festivities. Both were born long after Jerusalem was united and to them, envisioning a time when the Western Wall wasn’t under Israel’s control is almost unthinkable.
Sara Vered, though, well remembers the creation of the State and bore witness to “the brave soldiers who gave their lives in 1948 holding Jerusalem from the invading Arab armies.”
Vered recalled the War of Independence and some of the inspiring people she met at the time including a botanist near Mount Scopus who watered his plants with his wife every day in spite of the tragedies surrounding them, and a brave boy who threw a Molotov cocktail through a window to help hold down West Jerusalem until the armistice agreement was signed.
“We’re the people of history and our history makes us strong,” Vered declared. “It’s our task to keep telling these stories because we want each generation to know that if we didn’t have the State of Israel, we’d still be wandering from nation to nation.”
One of the most memorable moments of the evening came when Jason Goldfarb told of how his grandparents, Saul and Edna Goldfarb, bought the first Chanukah menorah lit at the Western Wall in 1967. They bought the menorah in 1972 and, years later, donated it to the SJCC. Saul lit the menorah at the communitywide Chanukah celebration in 1998.
Daniel and Orit Tor, the community ambassadors of Canadian Friends of Hebrew University in Ottawa, explained that Jerusalem symbolizes many different things.
“When you live in Jerusalem, you feel the history around you, but it’s also new and vibrant, with the cultures and flavours intertwined with the history,” said Daniel.
“Every one of us has his or her own Jerusalem,” Orit added. “While I’m far away from my home in Israel, today I feel like I’m home.”