The 56th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification was celebrated at Congregation Havurat Yisrael in Forest Hills on Thursday, May 18.

Israel risked it all by sending almost their entire air force, more than 200 planes, to bomb Egyptian planes and airfields at 7 a.m. on Monday, June 5, 1967.

Unbeknownst to the Israelis, the Egyptian air defenses were turned off. “The Egyptian high command decided to carry out an inspection trip over the Sinai Peninsula to examine the troops stationed there ready for an order to invade Israel,” said Rabbi David Algaze of Havurat Yisrael.

The Egyptian Vice President and the Minister of War, and the Prime Minister of Iraq departed by plane at 7 a.m. to surveil their troops’ positions. The Egyptian air defenses were ordered off between 7 and 8 a.m. so no one would accidentally shoot down their plane. “That’s when Israeli planes were coming towards their targets,” said Rabbi Algaze.

The Egyptian Minister of War was the only one who could’ve ordered the air defenses turned back on but “was in the plane and could not be reached.” “These are the kinds of miracles that occurred in 1967, and there were so many of them,” said Rabbi Algaze.

Another miracle was how Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Army in 1967, and his driver, were the first to enter Chevron, ahead of any Israeli troops. Yet, there were white flags everywhere. Rabbi Goren “opened up the gates of the Cave of Machpelah with his own Uzi,” said Rabbi Algaze.

“We all remember the famous words of (Paratroop Commander) Motta Gur, “Har HaBayit B’Yadeinu” (The Temple Mount is in our hands). “He repeated it with such emotion as if suddenly, all the prayers and all the t’filos we have davened for 2,000 years,” with tears and on Tish’ah B’Av, “suddenly all of this became a reality,” said Rabbi Algaze.

President of Havurat Yisrael Jack Goldhaber spoke of going to Jerusalem several times before 1967. The road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “was literally an opening, a cleft in a wall. It was the only way up. It was a two-lane road. It took at least an hour and a half by car uphill.”

Jerusalem “was completely set off by barbed wire.” People would go to the third or fourth floor of the YMCA to look at the Old City.

People also went to the top of a monastery on Jaffa Road by the separation wall seeing barbed wire and Jordanian soldiers. There was no vantage point in Jewish Jerusalem to see the Kosel.

“The war drums were beating in February and March (1967),” and nobody was stopping the Arabs. “Russia was basically pushing them to eliminate us.” “It was a very, very scary time,” said Goldhaber. Israel’s population was 2.5-3 million people at the time with “a very small army compared to today.”

Israel had a news blackout when the war started on Monday, June 5, 1967. Egyptian radio was reporting Tel Aviv being bombed. It was only hours later “that things weren’t that way at all,” said Goldhaber.

Thinking about Yerushalayim “was only a dream,” said Rabbi David Algaze. “It’s a miracle that happened in our time.” By getting together tonight, “We are saying am Yisrael is here and we’re going to continue to support, to defend, to promote the welfare of Yerushalayim.”

Attendees together sang Naomi Shemer’s 1967 song, “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold).

Renee Feit and her husband David Hirsch attended “Because we love Jerusalem. Our heart is with Jerusalem.” Feit loved the singing and Rabbi Algaze’s stories. “There are a lot of miracles that happened, and we don’t always know that it’s happening.”

David Hirsch said, “It’s important we all get together and celebrate. Jews all over the world are celebrating the same moment together.” “Having been there (Jerusalem), it’s a very special place.”

Chazan Nesanel Carmen led the singing of “Mei’al Pisgat Har HaTzofim” (From the Summit of Mt. Scopus), and a Carlebach medley for Mimkomcha Malkeinu (From Your perch, our King) from the Shacharis K’dushah on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

T’hilim 125, with the words, “Jerusalem has mountains around it, and the Lord is around His people from now and to eternity,” and T’hilim 122, with the words, “Request the welfare of Jerusalem; may those who love you enjoy tranquility” were said by Rabbi Elisha Friedman of the Young Israel of Forest Hills.

The Prayer for the State of Israel was recited by Rabbi Judah Kerbel of the Queens Jewish Center. The Prayer for the Soldiers of Israel was recited by Rabbi Yossi Mendelson of Congregation Machane Chodosh.

Maariv and the singing of Hallel ended the program. Falafel, tahini, and Israeli salad were part of the refreshments afterward for the more than 50 attendees.

Havurat Yisrael has held a Yom Yerushalayim event every year since the synagogue’s founding in 1981.

 By David Schneier