The Unity of Jerusalem
There is a recurring theme associated with Jerusalem: that of Jewish unity.
Jerusalem is the city of Peace, although it has been conquered 36 times in its long history. In the words of the Psalmist King David, “The built up Jerusalem is like a city that is bound together.” King David saw Jewish unity as a necessary component to the completeness of the holy city. It is a theme that is heard from the Prophets, Talmudic sources and, later, commentators.
The unification of the first “Yom Yerushalayim” did not occur until the time of King David. Until then, the upper city of Jerusalem had remained an impregnable, Jebusite fortress since the time of the conquest of Joshua. But David captured the Zion fortress. Eventually the Temple Mount itself would be purchased by King David, and the first Temple built by his son and successor, Solomon.
All of Israel gathered and took part in its liberation. The Talmud in Yuma states, “Jerusalem was not divided among the tribes.” (12A) In essence, every Jew owns a portion of Jerusalem.
It is then more understandable how strife — how hatred and infighting between Jews and rival Jewish factions — resulted in the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70; the Talmud states that the second Temple was destroyed as a result of baseless hatred. (Yuma 9B) One hundred and thirty three years prior to the Temple’s destruction, in 63 BCE, the rivalry between the last descendants of the hasmoneans, Hyrcanus and Aristobulous, led to a Roman invasion and occupation by the general, Pompey.
One hundred and thirty years later, as Judea struggled to maintain its independence, infighting pervaded Jerusalem. There were the Sadducees, who rejected the authority of the Rabbis. They turned the position of the high priesthood into a political post as they vied for power and control. The zealot groups fought against Rome, and also opposed each other. The Sicariim brandished knives as they assassinated their political rivals.
But just as Jerusalem was lost to strife, it was Jewish unity that liberated Old Jerusalem in 1967.
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neria observes that in May 1948, as the Haganah was engaged in a valiant struggle to hold on to the Old City of Jerusalem, units of the Etzel and the Haganah were planning to break into the Old City to come to the relief of the surviving troops. The Haganah represented the army of the Yishuv while the Etzel represented the Revisionist Zionists. Had they succeeded in taking the Old City, Rav Neriah states, there would have been a constant quarrel over who liberated Jerusalem. Jerusalem would have become a city of dispute.
It was only in 1967, when one army, the Israel Defense Forces, entered the Old City through the Lion’s Gate, that the Temple Mount and Jerusalem would be redeemed and unified. All Jewry, as one, shared in that remarkable moment.