Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jerusalem, May 1948.  Following a strangulating siege and resultant near famine, the Jews of Old City Jerusalem surrender to Abdullah el Tell’s Arab Legion.  Leaving behind their homes and thousands of years of Jewish history, did these 1500 residents realize they might never see the Kotel (Western Wall) again?

Once Jordan took control of the Old City, it set to work destroying or desecrating over half of its 58 synagogues, using them as stables and hen-houses – one of the few that still stood was the Tzemach-Tzedek.  Headstones from the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives were repurposed for paving roads and latrines.  The Old City’s former residents tearfully climbed Mount Zion to peer over at their former lives.

And then, in June of 1967, a miracle!  Two days after Jordanian troops opened heavy-artillery barrage on Jerusalem, Mordechai (Motta) Gur’s Paratroopers Brigade burst through the Lion’s Gate, captured the Old City, and reclaimed the Temple-Mount and Western Wall.  Nineteen-year old soldiers who had never seen the Kotel cried as they touched its stones:
“Men quickly advanced on the paved area….with great emotion, the heart beats quickly. We are among the first to reach the small opening. From here, narrow and winding steps lead us to the Western Wall. The Western Wall, the last remnant of the Temple. Jewish footsteps have not walked here for 19 years. We are pushed forward by the stream of exultant soldiers… hundreds of dusty, sweaty soldiers, their clothing stained with blood…crowding into the narrow rectangular space in front of the Wall…tough men, who for two days have carried out heavy fighting, imprinted with blood…stood and cried out loud without embarrassment, a cry of release and emotion, a cry of spiritual elevation and a recognition of the … eternity of the nation of Israel….”

A recording of this historic event.  You can read a transcript of this recording here.

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