The historic 50th anniversary celebration of “Yom Yerushalayim,” the reunification of the eastern and western portions of Jerusalem and the capture of the Old City and Western Wall, was celebrated worldwide this past week with many special events including meetings, musical concerts, educational lectures and tefillah gatherings. Nowhere was it celebrated with the same intensity and dedication as in Israel, and specifically in Jerusalem.
The plans for the 50th “yovel” year were many years in the making and included dozens of groups and organizations and thousands of volunteers and facilitators to make it happen. The security considerations were immense and the need for a very large police and military presence was necessary. Even with the best of advance planning, the sudden decision of President Trump to come to Israel during the celebrations caused many last-minute changes to take place and huge additional security requirements.
The key events of the Jerusalem celebrations included an exquisite sound and light show projected on the outer walls of the Old City near Jaffa gate. The complex show included hundreds of lights, advanced multimedia video and laser projection techniques, drones carrying lighted signs for the 50th anniversary, a musical extravaganza and fireworks emanating from the top of the walls. The show included numerous speeches by various Israeli politicians and was attended by tens of thousands who crowded into the main thoroughfare leading up to Jaffa gate. The show, which took place on Sunday night,
May 21, will move to an adjacent wall and will continue as a nightly light show event, minus the performers and speakers, into mid July.
The second key event was the yearly “March of the Flags.” This year’s march, on May 24, was greatly expanded and included many thousands of participants from all over the world. The march, starting from the front of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, included a stage with music, performers and various speakers. The marchers, the vast majority being children and young men and women from local schools and youth organizations, were given flags and banners and danced with them from the Great Synagogue down to Zion Gate and though the various quarters of the Old City to the Western Wall. Near the Western Wall, a large performance stage was set up and a beautiful Yom Yerushalayim program was produced. The program included speeches, tefillot, the unveiling of a new sefer Torah and a musical program by renowned singer Shwekey.
Amongst the many organizational events that took place, the World Mizrachi organization, under the leadership of its new Director Rabbi Doron Perez, hosted a three-day Yom Yerushalayim conference. The conference commenced on Monday night, May 22, with a most beautiful multimedia event at the Binyanei Hauma Convention Center. In preparation for a year, thousands of people participated in the singing and dancing, video presentations and historic recollections of the capture of Jerusalem. The event included a concert by Shwekey and additional artists.
The Orthodox Union similarly sponsored an evening of tefillah, music and learning on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim on May 23. The evening included shiurim by Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Rabbi Avi Berman and various musical performances, including one by Rabbi Shlomo Katz.
By Tzvi Allen Fishman
Rabbi Shlomo Katz also led a special tefillah service the morning of Yom Yerushalayim at the Beit Harav Kook synagogue, which included special tefillot and his hallmark Hallel utilizing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s niggunim.