This Tuesday evening is the start of Yom Yerushalayim, the day celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem 50 years ago.  It is the day that invokes the stirring words “Har Habayit b’yadeinu,” the Temple mount is in our hands. In an era like ours when wars endure for years, it is hard to comprehend that Israel defeated the armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in merely six days.  It was a miraculous victory.

Amidst the euphoria of our celebration, it is appropriate to recall that victory came with a price.  Approximately 800 Israelis were killed and over 4,000 were wounded.  In gratitude and in memory of those who sacrificed their lives so that Jerusalem could be the reunited eternal capital of the Jewish nation, I share excerpts of the words of Galit Baram, The Israeli Consul General which she spoke at this year’s city-wide Yom Hazikaron ceremony.

Many of us carry in our hearts names and faces of our fallen family members, friends from school, neighbours, army buddies and colleagues.  Each one of them has a name; each one of them was a whole world of hopes, dreams, plans, talents – that will never materialize.  And the feeling of loss is unbearable.

On this day (Yom Hazikaron), we go to military cemeteries and attend memorial ceremonies.  We see their parents and ourselves growing old, see their children or nephews and nieces growing up.  Time passes and they will forever remain young and handsome in our memory.            

The State of Israel is an unprecedented miracle of an ancient people returning to its ancestral home after 2000 years of exile.  Israel’s social, regional and economic achievements in its relatively short modern history are magnificent.  It is a country that absorbs immigrants, guarantees democratic values and defends its population in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in the world.  It has managed to sign two peace agreements with its former enemies – Egypt and Jordan.  It provides humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, and is willing to negotiate with any party in our region sincerely committed to peace.

All this could not be achieved without the sense of duty, sacrifice, resilience and determination of the people of Israel.  Canadian visitors to Israel, elected officials among them, told me on more than one occasion how impressed they were with the vitality and energy of our diverse Israeli society, and with the resilience and courage of our population….

Israeli musician and songwriter Naomi Shemer wrote in her song,“We Aren’t There Yet”:

That’s a sign we have not yet arrived,

And the horizon is still far away,

And your heart is still open to the four winds –

And we must continue walking,

And we must continue marching,

And the road continues to be long.”

We are committed to continue to fight for the defense of Israel, for its identity, for its growth and prosperity; and to make sure it will be worthy of the sacrifice of your loved ones, of our loved ones.

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