The anniversary is known as Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), and takes place on the Hebrew date of the reunification of the city. According to the Western calendar, the Jerusalem was reunified on on 7 June 1967.
At the official ceremony marking the jubilee on Wednesday, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said that in the stones of Jerusalem “beats the heart of the Jewish people”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel “will never return” to the situation of a divided Jerusalem, and that the Temple Mount and the Western Wall “will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty”.
Following Israel’s War of Independence of 1948-1949, control of Jerusalem was split between Israel and Jordan. In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and denied Israeli Jews access to the Western Wall in violation of the 1949 Armistice Agreement.
On 5 June 1967, after many months of Egypt declaring its intent to destroy the State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a pre-emptive strike on Egypt’s Air Force, destroying most of it on the ground within hours.
Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq joined Egypt in an attack on Israel, but Israel’s forces resisted, gaining control over the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.
Jewish communities around the world join Israel in celebrating Yom Yerushalayim. Chief Rabbi Mirvis hailed 50 “remarkable” years since the reunification of Jerusalem, describing the city as “the centre of our spiritual existence, a symbol of our people”.
The status of Jerusalem is the single most contentious point in any peace negotiations, due to its importance to both Palestinians and Israelis. Jerusalem’s status in international law remains uncertain, and the international community does not recognise Israeli or Palestinian sovereignty there.
Israeli law mandates that everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, has the right to visit all holy places within Jerusalem and throughout the country. Thousands of Muslims worship at the Dome of the Rock/Haram al-Sharif and at Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount every week; Israel prohibits Jewish prayer at the site so as not to inflame tensions, and control is given to each religious authority over their respective holy sites.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site of Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. It was the site of two Jewish temples and the Western Wall is one of the only remnants of a retaining wall built around the Jewish Second Temple, which was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.