Unraveling the complexities of Yom Yerushalayim


Few holidays in Israel are as complex as Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). Mijal and Noam explore the day’s significance, reflecting on the Six-Day War, the reunification of Jerusalem, and its complex personal and national meanings. They discuss the celebrations, the diverse perspectives within Israeli society, and the ongoing impact on Jewish identity and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Noam: Hey everyone, welcome to Wondering Jews with Mijal and Noam.

Mijal: I’m Mijal.

Noam: And I’m Noam and this podcast is our way of trying to figure out the Jewish world. We don’t have it all figured out, but we are going to try to figure it out together. And I’m so happy that I get to figure it out together with Mijal.

Israelis march with national flags during the Flag March to mark Jerusalem Day outside the old city’s Damascus Gate on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/ AFP via Getty Images)

Mijal: I like your excitement, Noam. I feel like you’re more excited than usual. Just kidding. We love hearing from you listeners. Keep the feedback coming. Please email us at, and call us, leave a message at 1-833-WON-Jews. And Noam, we’re going to start with a listener question. So this week’s question is from Alex, and Alex wants to know, what are you most looking forward to this summer?

Noam: I’ll tell you, Alex, it’s such an easy answer. I am looking forward to my children not having homework. That’s it. It’s clutter. It’s irritating. It causes fights. It’s too much. Enough. Let’s end homework. Mijal, can we just end homework together?

Mijal: That’s so funny. Yeah. I tried, I tried voting for that with the parents of my kid’s school. It didn’t work so well. So what am I looking forward to? I’m still figuring out my summer. So it’s a little bit unclear, but I really hope to make it to Israel, , just my heart is constantly there. Like that’s the first thing I think about, the last thing I think about. So Noam, speaking of Israel, this episode is coming out on like an interesting slash weird slash I don’t know whatever, a Jewish holiday. And I am calling it weird because Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, I think it’s a holiday that means a lot of things to a small group of people. Like it’s not the kind of holiday that is celebrated broadly like Passover or Purim or even like Israel’s Independence Day or Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut.

So let’s just start by naming, what is Yom Yerushalayim? What is being celebrated, by whom? So I’m just going to put you on the hot seat, Noam, and ask you to tell us a little bit about Yom Yerushalayim.

Noam: Listen, the thing about Yom Yerushalayim is you said it, It means a lot of things to a small amount of people.

Mijal: Yeah, yeah.

Noam: That’s such a great way to put it. I uncontrollably laughed as you said that, because I was like, yeah, that’s it. That is a great description of Yom Yerushalayim, of Jerusalem Day. We did a 3-part podcast on Unpacking Israeli History about Jerusalem day and about the 1967 war. So, you know, if you want to listen to that full articulation of it, go there.

I’m going to try to give as quick an articulation of what happened in three or so minutes. The 28th day of Iyyar is the day that we celebrate Jerusalem Day, like you said, by a small group of people, people who identify as religious Zionists most often are the ones that are celebrating this day of Jerusalem Day. Religious Zionists meaning a subsection of Zionists.

So now we just played a game where it’s not just Zionists, it’s people who identify as either traditional Zionists or traditional or religious. And that means that people who are identified as either ultra-orthodox or totally secular won’t find the same meaning very often in Jerusalem Day.

Mijal: So if you’re a Zionist but not religious, or if you’re religious but not as much of a Zionist, you won’t, this won’t be the holiday for you basically.

Noam: It’s not the holiday. Now that doesn’t mean that people, residents, citizens of Jerusalem and people that identify as secular in Tel Aviv, or Haifa, they might love Jerusalem Day as well, but it doesn’t come close to the seriousness of Memorial Day, of Yom HaZikaron, or the celebratory national experience of Independence Day. It really is a subset of people, religious Zionists. It’s actually the ultimate, I would say, religious Zionist holiday. And therefore for me, as someone who identifies as both someone who is proudly Zionist and aspirationally religious, I…

Mijal: I want to unpack that, Noam, proudly Zionist, aspirationally religious. Okay. Yeah.

Noam: It’s a really important day for me. And it’s a day that, and I’ll start by saying this, that I say the full thanksgiving prayer to God with a blessing, which means that on this day, which is a day, which in Judaism, we don’t do that often. You don’t add new prayers. You don’t add new holidays. But it’s a day that I view this as a day of intervention, that there was a moment that we should be grateful to something, to somebody, to some being, to some moment, that allowed for this day to take place in which Israel, the Jewish people, regained the city of Jerusalem, which it did not win in 1948. And for many people, in 1948 when Israel’s independence was declared and then the war was fought, between Israel and Jordan and Iraq and Syria and Lebanon and Egypt. While Israel won that war and was able to gain 78% of the land of Israel west of the Jordan River, the remaining 22% or so, well, there was the West Bank and there was Jerusalem and there was Hebron and all these ancient Jewish cities which were not in the hands of the Jewish people.

So people like Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who was a leading religious Zionist figure, was so distraught in 1948. He actually wasn’t feeling this joy that other people felt when Israel finally declared a Jewish state.

Mijal: So now, so ’48, independence, we just celebrated that a couple of weeks ago or so, that we have Jewish sovereignty, but that Jewish sovereignty doesn’t extend to many sites, many sites that have particular sacred and holy resonance for Jews across generations. And those were controlled by other countries actually, like Jordan, who had control over those, over those territories.

Noam: Yes. Exactly. And in Independence Day of 1967, meaning, the way the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar fall out, it’s interesting, every 19 years, you know about this thing, every 19 years the Hebrew date and the Gregorian date fall out on the exact same day?

Mijal: Yeah.

Noam: So it’s so interesting about 1967, 19 years after ’48 was ’67, and the English, the Gregorian date that was celebrating Israel’s independence, they fell on the same day as Israel’s Independence Day in Hebrew, which is the fifth of Iyyar, and so they fell together on the same exact day, and every Israel, every Independence Day in Israel, what they did is they would do a big parade. And this year, 1967, before June, remember, the Six Day War doesn’t start until June of ’67, so in May of ’67, Israel is celebrating its Independence Day. They used to choose a city. They would choose a city to have this big march, this big parade. And in ’67, the city that they chose was Jerusalem.

Mijal: So we’re talking right now about Jerusalem, which is divided. So the old part, which is the one with the most religious significance, it has Temple Mount, that is controlled by the Jordanians. But like the newer part doesn’t have as much of the religious significance that has Israeli sovereignty. So Jerusalem is literally divided and you’re describing to us.

Noam: Yes.

Noam: Yes. Yes.

Noam: Exactly.

Noam: Divided.

Mijal: a moment of that time before Jerusalem is reunited.

Noam: Exactly. So we’re now in May of ’67, a few weeks before the war takes place. And on this very day, as you can imagine it, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook is giving this intense lecture at the yeshiva that his father, Rabbi Avraham Kook, had created called Merkaz Harav. And he describes 1948. And he said, when the entire people went off to celebrate in public, I couldn’t go out and share in the joint. I sat alone. I couldn’t come to terms with what happened, with this awful news as he describes it. I succumbed to this feeling of shock, my body tore to shreds. I had nothing to celebrate. Where is our Hebron? Have we forgotten her? Where is our Shechem? Meaning Nablus. Our Jericho. Where? They divided my land. They divided the land of God. I couldn’t go outside to dance and rejoice. The true Israel is Israel redeemed. The Kingdom of Israel and the armies of Israel. A people in its wholeness and not in a diaspora in exile. And that was the feeling that Rabbi Kook was speaking about three weeks before the Six Day War.

Mijal: So I want us to react to this statement that you just read, which is fascinating. But before we do that, let’s just quickly do the historical trajectory of what happened. So give us on one foot, describe to us the Six Day War, kind of like how it began and what happens vis-a-vis Jerusalem. 

Noam: So this is the dramatic moment. So imagine you’re at the march. It’s at this parade is taking place and Levi Eshkol is the prime minister and Yitzhak Rabin is the chief of staff and Yitzhak Rabin is handed a note at this parade. And the note said the following: the Egyptians have moved their troops to the Sinai.

And this moment started to be called in Hebrew the Hamtana, the waiting period. And Egypt and Syria and Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Jordan, they’re all moving their troops to the borders. At this exact time, all of this is taking place, the Straits of Tehran are then closed. And so Israel is now totally isolated from the world. And then, while all this is taking place, the founder of the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Ahmed Shukari, says, listen, in the event of a conflagration, meaning if something bad takes place, no Jews whatsoever will survive.

And this is all happening in May of 1967. And people like Abraham Joshua Heschel, the great philosopher, the great rabbi, he starts asking questions like, will there be another Auschwitz, another Dachau, another Treblinka? This was the feeling that was on people’s minds at this time.

Mijal: Right. Right. And I just want to note part of what’s crazy. Like listening to this, like post October 7th, 2024. It’s such a different landscape. This is Israel being attacked by its Arab neighbors, by other nation states, which I think is very different than what we’ve gone to today in which Israel is attacked by terrorist groups that arguably are part of the same axis of terror that Iran is controlling from far away. But there’s something really, there’s a story here that we should keep our ears open to as well. This is how many armies attacked Israel at once?

Noam: Yeah.

Noam: So no army had attacked Israel at this point, to be clear.

Mijal: How many armies does Israel think we’re going to attack at once?

Noam: Egypt, Syria, the Saudis, Iraq, and Jordan.

Mijal: Yeah. Okay. Great. So, so no, keep going.

Noam: Okay, so I’m imagining that moment of Rabin getting that note saying, habibi, bro, achi, like chill out with your parade right now, some things are going down. May 28th at the end of May, Levi Eshkol gets on radio and gives what’s called the stammering speech in which he’s not clear with his words, he doesn’t know what he’s saying and everyone’s nervous and he just does nothing to bring calm to the atmosphere and he just increased anxiety. Eventually Israel establishes what’s called a unity government. This unity government brought Menachem Begin into the government, Menachem Begin was always in the opposition and he became this minister without portfolio. Moshe Dayan becomes the defense minister. Levi Eshkol is still the prime minister and Israel does something amazing, which is in one fell swoop, they take out the Egyptian Air Force. They take out the Egyptian Air Force and it is so clear very quickly that Israel is going to win this war.

And at this point in time, Jerusalem is still irrelevant. Jerusalem was not controlled by Egypt and in the north was Syria and Israel at Levi Eshkol says to King Hussein the head of Jordan, please stay out of this. And Hussein feels like nah, bro, I can’t do that because I am deeply connected to the pan-Arabism and I cannot allow for me to depart from Egypt from Syria I’m entering the fight. Jordan enters the fight, huge mistake.

Mijal: For Jordan.

Noam: For Jordan, exactly. Israel defeats Jordan. Listen, there was a cost. I think around 180 Israelis were killed fighting for Jerusalem and in total over 700 Israelis were killed in fighting the Six Day War. But that’s nothing compared to what they were estimating or thinking would happen. And in six days, Israel quadrupled in size and most importantly, for the purpose of Jewish identity, and I’m focusing on Jewish identity right now, Mijal. It got Jerusalem. It got Jerusalem.

Mijal: Well, I think, The Six Day War is seen by historians as a moment in which American Jewry really felt, like this existential angst for Israel, and Many historians say that you have this renewal of Jewish pride and identity after the Six Day War because it’s like little Israel is able to stand up against all of these armies and prevail. But I want to actually also go back to what you were just saying right now. And I’m wondering, I’m thinking on the spot, so tell me if you disagree. It sounds like part of what happens here, with suddenly getting all of these territories, right, that Israel has, is that on the one hand, you have some people in Israel who are like, ooh, we have some territories that we might be able to exchange to resolve the conflict that we have with our neighbors, okay? And on the other hand, you have some people like Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and others, who are like, ooh, this is bringing us closer to redemption in which we have religious sovereignty over the entire land. And that’s like, a little bit hard to like reconcile when you have people who are almost like celebrating and happy over the same thing, but actually seeing the meaning of it and almost like the end result in different ways. How does that sound?

Noam: I think that’s a very good description. I think it’s a very astute observation. And to further complicate that, which is just ironic to think back at this historically, the head of the NRP, which was the National Religious Party of Israel, was a man by the name of Moshe Shapira. Now, if you were to say, hey, what do you think religious Zionists think about the conquering of Jerusalem, of having Jerusalem?

It was he who was arguing that Israel shouldn’t try to conquer Jerusalem, because at that point in time, the national religious parties were the most dovish. They were the people that were most moderate. Rabbi Tzvi Hudakuk was actually on the outskirts in many ways, and it was only after the ’67 war did this messianic religious Zionism really catch hold on the community.

Mijal: Yeah. Yeah. Yossi Klein Halevi has a beautiful book called like Dreamers, in which he kind of tells the story of Israel through the story of some soldiers who fought in the Six Day War, tzanchanim, paratroopers, and eventually their life journeys and what they represent about Israeli society. And one of those paths is the creation of this religious Zionist movement that ends up playing a really significant role politically in Israel, and in terms of how Israel is developed.

Noam: So this is where the story gets complicated, because so far I’ve just said a rosy story, a story of glory, a story of 2000 years of yearning for something and getting it. Mijal, that’s like a really romantic story, right? But there’s like with every story, there are different sides of the story.

So side number one that I want to talk about is the result of this war that happened to the Arabs and the Palestinians, and I’m separating the two. With the Palestinians, this was what’s called the Naksa, which means the setback. The 1948 war was described as the Nakba, the catastrophe.

Mijal: But by them, you mean, yeah.

Noam: By them, yeah, because another 300, because for some of them, they were removed not once, but twice. So this is 300,000 refugees emerged out of this six day war, a war, by the way, that they certainly probably wanted to happen against Israel, but they weren’t the primary fighters in the war. It was the Arab countries that were the fighters, right? It was Jordan, it was Egypt, it was Syria. But they were 300,000 refugees.

Mijal: And where do these become refugees to?

Noam: Everywhere. Jordan, Egypt, they stay in Gaza.

Mijal: Right, right, dispersed everywhere.

Noam: Yeah, exactly. Jerusalem also becomes a major issue. So this is all taking place. So that’s one paradox.

Mijal: So one paradox is that the celebration of one people is a displacement of…

Noam: of another people.

Mijal: and you’re also naming of, in many ways, the Palestinians, they didn’t initiate ’67, but they become the main victims of it.

Noam: They become the main victims of it. I don’t, I don’t want to, again, I don’t want to say the Palestinians, I don’t want to give them a get out of jail free card here, Mijal. I just read to you before a quote from the founder of the PLO, which said that there should be extermination of all Jews, Ahmadi Shukari. Like, let’s be real about this. And then we also have to be real about the fact that between 48 and ’67, there were thousands, literally thousands of incursions from what’s called the fedayin to go back to the land of Israel, what they viewed as Palestine, and to either cause damage or to wreak havoc or to engage in terrorist activities. I don’t want to be flippant about that at all. At all.

Mijal: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I appreciate that.

Noam: So the paradox is that there is this joint, on the one hand, major celebration. This is going to be really important, Mijal. And on the other hand, there’s this major setback. I’m not getting into historically who’s right or who’s wrong right now. I’m just describing the reality of Palestinians and Israelis. I said that I say Hallel with a blessing on Jerusalem Day. Do you?

Mijal: No.

Noam: You don’t. This is interesting. But that’s interesting. That’s interesting.

Mijal: No, but that’s a whole lot. It’s not…yeah, but not that interesting.

Noam: Do you say Hallel? Do you say the Thanksgiving prayer at all? On this day or no?

Mijal: Yeah, but I don’t have like… I don’t think I take it the way you do.

Noam: What, say why. I’m interested, why, like, I, I, I’m so, I have this, I haven’t gotten to my paradoxical feelings yet right now all I’ve said is I have this immense celebratory joy and like. And by the way, more than that, I I feel like this, like this I feel this sense of of Jewish history and Jewish heritage this 2000 year old 3000 year old story it’s such a profound way that I don’t feel like in any other day and that’s why I feel like it’s my responsibility to say thanksgiving prayer to God.

Mijal: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I have other layers that you don’t have. Like, sorry.

Noam: Tell me about it tell me tell me about these layers

Mijal: No, no, no, I don’t mean it. No, I don’t mean it that way.

Noam: I know, I know you’re more complicated than me, I know.

Mijal: I mean, like, I grew up in like in a Sephardic home where we took Maimonides’ injunctions against saying blessings very seriously. And I am a woman and there’s like all these other religious layers that that to me like complicate when I say Hallel, and with a blessing and not so it’s.

Noam: OK, I guess so. I want to ask a separate point then. Do you feel gratitude? Like to God on this day.

Mijal: Of course I do. The gratitude has, is, is exponential. Gratitude first of all, Israel could have ceased to exist in ’67. Like that was like a real existential threat. And thank God, you know, God, I do believe in God’s intervention in history. So thank God we prevailed.

And I, I love Jewish history. I love walking in the streets of Jerusalem and thinking that I am connected to my ancestors. When I’m in the Western Wall and I think about the generations of people who’ve prayed there and begged there and I’m connected to them, there’s something there. I don’t even know if I want to call it mythical or romantic, but to me, being a human being and being a Jew in this world is a deep connection to my past. And to have access to, not just stones, they’re stones that were sacred to so many of my ancestors. You know, that’s amazing.

I would also say it’s personal. My parents fell in love in Jerusalem. They got married in the Old City. I can literally go to the synagogue, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai, it’s one of the four ancient Sephardic synagogues. I can go to the place where they got married. I have like a family history there. When I was a kid, some Friday nights, I recall my parents doing like this cute competitions. We had this game in which like you had to sing songs, right? And it would be like a competition about who would write of songs first on like Jerusalem songs. You know what I mean? So like that makes sense what I’m saying? So like so I grew up with like Yerushalayim songs as part of my DNA of what it meant to be a person.

And then when I got older, I fell in love with it. I did even I remember one summer I joined like a tour guiding course of Jerusalem just because I wasn’t a tour guide, but I just like paid. So they let me join. Like you are there at the epicenter of the history of your people and of the world. So I have also like my own complicated feelings.

Noam: But Mijal, you and I haven’t spoken about what the complications are really yet.

Mijal: Well, you started naming one complication is that there’s multiple stories from multiple people. And, you know, fair to say that. And we also started naming before that there’s some people for whom they, you know, getting all of this lands back was actually an opportunity to maybe have like a pragmatic conflict resolutions with the Palestinians. And for others, it was a way to actually work towards reestablishing greater Israel. And there’s something messianic around that. So those to me are like, they’re layers. But yeah, there’s also complications.

Noam: Right? And then it’s a celebration of Jerusalem Day itself as well. That’s where the complications really come in, right?

Mijal: So can you explain what you mean by that? No, I think I know what you mean, but flesh it out.

Noam: Okay, so there’s something called the Rikkud Degalim, which means flag dance. Flag dance.

Mijal: The flag dance. Yep. Have you gone? Have you gone?

Noam: Four or five times I’ve been there.

Mijal: Four or five? Okay, I only went once.

Noam: Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So this is where things get complicated and I’m going to channel my the Amos Oz side of me in which what he said–

Mijal: Who was Amos Oz?

Noam: An amazing novelist, Israeli novelist, one of the, I would say, key writers of Israeli history.

Mijal: And also somebody who was, identified with like the dovish camp in Israel and somebody who believed in like pragmatic compromise towards conflict resolution with Palestinians.

Noam: Yeah, yeah, I actually I’m definitely wrong here, but I don’t think of him in political ways I just love his writings, but they’re probably–

Mijal: But he was a very political… he…

Noam: I know, I know. But I’m just saying that’s like he said one of the most powerful things that he wrote for me was when he said that Jerusalem is mine yet a stranger to me and What he was saying is it when you were just talking about your description of Jerusalem, even though you’re from Argentina and you live in New York, but Jerusalem is yours. Like the description of Jerusalem, how you describe your family singing the songs about your Shalom, about Jerusalem, it’s yours. And yet it’s a stranger in a sense that what Amos Oz was saying is like, I got there in ’67 and people were living there and they were strangers. He didn’t understand their language and they’re living like the way they always lived, he says, and I’m the stranger. And he said their eyes hate him. And that’s what I think of on the way the flag dance often works.

Mijal: So just tell us what is the flag dance, who goes there?

Noam: So here’s what it looks like. The flag dance is, so on Jerusalem Day itself, on Yerushalayim itself, there’s probably around 50,000 or so people.

Mijal: That many?

Noam: Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe some years less, some years more. And you march from the western part of Jerusalem,

Noam: What some people call West Jerusalem, to the eastern part of Jerusalem, to what people call East Jerusalem, which is this is the whole unifying aspect of it, meaning the unified city of Jerusalem. And there are probably around, I’m going to get my numbers on exactly right, but 400,000 or so Palestinian Arabs living in East Jerusalem. And you know, if the city has 900,000 or so people, then 400,000 or so are Palestinian Arabs. And there are different gates that allow you to get to the Kotel, to the Western Wall.

Mijal: Temple Mount.

Noam: to the Temple Mount, but no one’s marching there. That’s not where the march is really going to. It’s going to the Western Wall. And there’s a gate called Sha’ar Shechem, or in English I think it’s Damascus Gate. And then there is the Muslim Quarter. And this is all under the jurisdiction, technically, of Israel. That’s what it is, right? Israel won the war. And in 1980, officially made Jerusalem part of Israel, formally, which was denied by the United Nations. But Israel and Israelis, and on this day, Israel is saying all of it belongs to us. And so therefore what happens is we’re going to march through the Muslim quarter.

Mijal: Well, Israel is not saying that, the people who are leading this flag march just…

Noam: Fine, good, good, good. You’re spot on, you’re spot on, you’re spot on. Israel might be saying it by allowing it to take place though. But so, so this group of people, tens of thousands of people are dancing. They’re celebrating Israel. I’ve been part of this. A Yisrael Chai,, like the Jewish people live, like it’s amazing singing Jerusalem songs. Yerushalayim shel zahav, Jerusalem of Gold, like amazing songs. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Except there’s a, either a very small group of people, like a very, like some people want to say a tiny group of people, maybe 1%, or some people say up to 10 % of people are saying chants that I don’t even want to say on this podcast, but nasty chants about Arabs. And it becomes a parade or a march that’s not about celebrating Jewish sovereignty, but about something else, for those group of peoples that are coming out there and screaming these chants about antagonism towards Arabs and the like.

Mijal: So now could we say this way, just taking a step back for a second, because we started off by saying it’s a day that is intensely kept by a small number of people. And I would add to it, it’s a day that some people actually feel uncomfortable with.

Noam: I think so.

Mijal: Okay. So could we say, let’s think together, could we say that the flag march is almost like a symbol of the kind of strain of religious Zionism that some people find dangerous.

Noam: No, you’re absolutely right.

Mijal: Would you go again now?

Noam: (pause) You got me wondering, Mijal. Probably not in this atmosphere. And that makes me, I feel so sad saying that out loud.

Mijal: So it’s almost like the holiday has been become identified or taken over by a certain group that it’s–

Noam: But I won’t allow that to take place, at least not in my family.

Mijal: No, no, I, at least not on your celebration. I know, I know, I know. I’m not saying that.

Noam: Yeah, not in my celebration. No, I will not allow that to take place. And it’s an incredibly profound and important day. It remains that way. And I don’t think we could allow people on the fringes to identify or define really what the day should feel like. And I think we can’t allow that to take place.

Mijal, what I see taking place in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this is something that’s been written about extensively, by people like Micha Goodman, is fear and humiliation. There’s fear on the Israeli side of things. There’s this intense fear of needing to feel safe, of needing to feel secure, of needing to feel like we’re not going to be attacked. And on the Palestinian side of things, there is this humiliation. And ’67 was the ultimate display of humiliation for the Arab leaders. They lost, and by the way, they lost, Mijal, to the nebuch little, pitiful Jew. That’s part of their story, that’s part of their narrative, and they lost. And if it is the case that there’s fear on the Israeli side, which is guiding them, and it is the case that there’s humiliation on the side of the Arab side, from the Palestinian side, then I think it’s the job of the Arab world to stop triggering the amygdala, which is that little part of the brain that senses fear and then trains the brain to say, fight, flight, or freeze. The brain says, I’m going to figure this out, but I’m going to do something as a reaction to it. And that’s what the Palestinians have to stop triggering the fear. And the Israelis have responsibility to stop triggering the humiliation. Humiliation comes in the form of low self-esteem, of depression, of anxiety, and those sorts of things. And Israel has to do everything in its power to not humiliate the other.

There’s a line from Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was the great Mussarist. He was a great leader in the, I think, 19th century, teaching people how to be more refined human beings. And he said he saw two young boys fighting. And one of those young boys threw the other young boy into a ditch. And he asked this young boy, young boy, why did you just throw him in the ditch?

And he said, I wanted to show that I’m taller. I want to show that I’m bigger. So Rabbi Yisrael Salanter said, next time just stand on a chair. And to me, that’s like, the ultimate security, Mijal, isn’t it to like not have to throw anything in the face of someone else? But tell me, tell me where I’m wrong here. If you see the story differently than me, I want to understand it better from you. You have a lot of like sharp wisdom in this area.

Mijal: I don’t know if I have sharp wisdom.

Noam: You do. You do. Okay.

Mijal: I have cynicism though. Like in the post-October 7 reality, you know, Palestinians have stopped triggering our fear. I’m like, really? Who are you sending this memo to? You know what I mean? Really? To Palestinians, to Iran, to their supporters around the world, the West.

Noam: You’re right.

Mijal: And the worst thing is that the cycle reinforces each other. The more that the fear is triggered, the more that elements that seek to humiliate become stronger. And that’s part of the tragedy. But yeah, I will say also, but there’s another part of this. You spoke about fear, about humiliation, about national conflict. But to me, Jerusalem also represents, you know, God and religion. And that’s like, I think a lot of observers of Israel and the conflict and Jerusalem don’t really get that. Like, I don’t think unless you’ve tasted the intoxication of believing with all of your might in the Messiah and that you can bring it and that it might come to life in front of you and that it will redeem the world, you know, unless you’ve had a little bit of that…

Noam: Kool-Aid.

Mijal: No, Kool-Aid is, sorry to say, it’s a little bit condescending to those who have it. Sorry, sorry. No, it’s…

Noam: I like when people drink the Wondering Jews Kool-Aid.

Mijal: Okay, I don’t know, but there’s something that I understand innately and that I find both beautiful and magnificent and dangerous because any kind of intoxication can lead you to do great things for good and for bad. And part of what happens here is that you’ve got this city, this magnificent city that has been yearned for and dreamed of and prayed for by people who, whose one people’s dream is the other’s nightmare and vice versa. And that’s part of the story of Jerusalem.

And I think for me, I’m in a place where I love this city so much, and I’m also constantly toggling between the Jerusalem of my dreams and what I think of. There’s a statement by the rabbis of Yerushalayim shel malah, Yerushalayim shel matah, the Jerusalem of, the celestial heavens and the one of the Earth, the real one, the lived one. And I think that sometimes our intoxication with the celestial one can lead us to do things to make the one, the lived reality, harder. And I’m nervous. I think that sometimes we become intoxicated by stones and not enough by people. And there’s something, that’s to me the question. And I don’t want to do it in a way that dismisses the dreams and the yearnings and the songs and the way that Jerusalem…. you know, Jerusalem makes my heart sing like no other place in the world. Every wedding we go to, a Jewish wedding, you’re celebrating, you’re happy, you’re joyous. And we end that Chuppah ceremony, shattering a glass and proclaiming out loud, we will raise up Jerusalem even in our happiest moments. And that’s been set for generations and generations and generations. And that’s part of what makes us a people.

So, I go into Yom Yerushalayim being very grateful that we’re saved from a tragedy, being grateful that we have access to holy sites. And also just saying that we have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of work to do in how to insist that we get to celebrate, but celebrating in a way that hopefully make things better for a lot of people and also a special responsibility for us, Noam, those of us who, you know, I think both of us probably would have a lot to say about the term religious Zionism and we didn’t really do that today, but I think, but I think we identify as religious people and a Zionists, right?

Noam: We’ll get there. We’ll get there.

Mijal: Let’s just put it like that. And I think we have a lot of work to do to try to figure out, yeah, how we, how we not let what we think of as extremists. I’m not saying they would agree with that, but, take over the celebration of an important day.

Noam: Right, and Mijal, that was incredibly, that was helpful for me. That was helpful for me because what you just did for me is you helped make Jerusalem Day, which is such a powerful day. I said it’s one of the most meaningful days for me personally because it’s at the intersection of two identities, the religion and the Zionism, coming together. And it’s become a day that’s been complicated over the years. But something that you did is you made it again, in hearing your words at the end there, a very spiritual day. And that’s, I think, why my heart yearns for it. In the same way that your heart sings, my heart has this yearning for feeling this healthy Jewish identity that I think is so critical, for people like Natan Sharansky, who pointed out that in June 1967, when he heard the phrase, the Temple Mount is in our hands, when he heard that, he said it penetrated the Iron Curtain. 

And so that’s what ’67 does for me. It gives me this meaningful identity. And I hope that it does do what people like Rabbi Lookstein described in New York in 1967, when he said that people no longer were walking around like question marks, like in a hunched way, but standing straight up like exclamation points. That also really matters. So, you know, that’s the story of ’67. That’s the story of Jerusalem day. And it’s a complicated one, but a beautiful one. So, Mijal, thank you so much for having this conversation with me.

Mijal: Thank you, Noam, and happy Yom Yerushalayim. Happy Jerusalem Day.

Noam: To you as well.

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