Ever since I came back from my 2 years in Israel, Yom Yerushalayim has always been a bit of a letdown. Either I’ve been home, where the particular bent of the religious community doesn’t allow them to recognize the religious significance of Yom Yerushalayim, and I end up walking out during tachanun – or – I’m at YU and since all the students have left, nothing official or especially celebratory happens either, even though there is some appreciation in the form of hallel (without a bracha) during Shacharis and a drasha, this year by Rav Willig (which I missed because I thought it was at 1 and not 12 for some reason.
Anyway, I just wanted share a quick thought I heard from President Richard Joel on Yom Ha'atzma'ut that is also very appropriate to Yom Yerushalayim.
When President Joel was the head of Hillel International, he had the privilege of attending the very first Birth Right trip. The night before they were supposed to visit the Kotel, a number of students approached President Joel with a question.
They were not particularly observant, and didn't know so much about Judaism or its practices, so they asked President Joel, "We're going to be at the Kotel in less than 12 hours, what are we supposed to do when we're there?"President Joel replied with a short story/lesson. He said that their great-great-great grandparents probably didn't know his great-great-great grandparents. In fact, they probably lived in different areas of the Pale of Settlement, spoke different dialects of Yiddish, perhaps even had different levels of religious observance. But there was one thing they had in common and one thing they knew in their hearts. They all believed that they wanted to be there, at the Kotel - but they knew that they never would. Now, these students, their descendents, would finally get that opportunity that their forebearers longed for for centuries.
We should all learn from this very powerful lesson. Many of us don't know what a world without Israel was like, and even moreso what a world was like without Jews being able to go to Kotel and pray. Let us rejoice in our holy city, and hope together for its true rebuilding with the Beis Hamikdash as its centerpiece.