We here at The Friends of Israel often quote Psalm 122:6—“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
We wait for the day Jerusalem is safe from attacks and no longer a city that people all throughout the Middle East try to take from Israel. For one day each year for the past 53 years, Israel has gotten a taste of what that will be like.
Jerusalem Day, or Jerusalem Reunification Day, commemorates the liberation and rejoining of Jerusalem in 1967. The great Six-Day War in Israel resulted in Jewish sovereignty over the city. Once a year since that date, the nation has gathered in joyful celebration for its beloved capital city. Jewish people across the world recognize this holiday, but unquestionably the greatest celebration takes place in Jerusalem where thousands march through the Old City and enjoy concerts, singing, dancing, street parades, and retelling the history and future of Jerusalem.
Reasons to Celebrate
It’s hard to put into words how much Jerusalem means to Israel and to Jewish people worldwide. We don’t celebrate any “New York City Day” or “Los Angeles Day” nationally in the United States every year. Our whole country doesn’t join together to dance and sing in joy because of any one city. So why all the hoopla over Jerusalem?
Jerusalem’s history makes it perhaps the most iconic city ever. One of the oldest cities in the world, it’s been the center of both worship and controversy for thousands of years.
Jewish Israelis’ Jerusalem roots go back more than 3,000 years to the days when Jerusalem was the united capital of the kingdom of Israel. It’s the city where King David ruled, where King Nebuchadnezzar conquered and took the Israelites captive, where two Temples were built and destroyed, where Jesus walked, and where more than 900,000 Israelis today call home. It’s the key city in the entire Bible, and its name is one we’re accustomed to seeing in more than half of all the books of the Bible.
Arab Muslims claim the city for themselves based on their assertion that they are Abraham’s descendants through his son, Ishmael, and that Israel forfeited its right to the land because of sin. The Qur’an says that Jerusalem was the last place the prophet Muhammad walked before ascending to heaven. A Muslim presence dominated the city from the time the Palestinians first inhabited the land in AD 638 until the British Balfour Declaration jumpstarted the process of legally returning the land to the Jewish people in 1917. As a symbol of their perceived right to Jerusalem, the Islamic Dome of the Rock sits atop the site of the Jewish second Temple.
As God has enabled His Holy City to prosper, Jerusalem’s residents have found good reason to celebrate their city every year.
Today Jerusalem is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians, a valid reason for the city to be in poor condition. Yet it’s as vibrant and healthy as ever. Its population has steadily grown for the past 100 years, now nearing 1 million. Its culture is flourishing in the areas of art, music, theater, and sports. As God has enabled His Holy City to prosper, Jerusalem’s residents have found good reason to celebrate their city every year.
Twice in the United States and five times worldwide each year The Friends of Israel leads Up to Jerusalem tours to the Holy Land. This trip is the first and often only chance to see this special city for many people who deeply love Scripture and have waited decades to walk where Jesus walked. It’s hard to see Jerusalem and not leave with a renewed perspective and spiritual refreshment. When you stand on the Mount of Olives looking over the gorgeous landscape at sunset, the beauty of the Bible and the Holy City of Jerusalem truly come alive.
A Greater Jerusalem to Come
If you don’t live in Israel, you’ll likely never fully understand in this life why the Jewish people value Jerusalem Day so highly. But that’s okay! Just think of Jerusalem Day as a prelude to our citizenship in the greater New Jerusalem. God speaks of this time through prophecy in Zechariah 1. Though His wrath was on Jerusalem during Zechariah’s time, He promised to restore the great city, saying, “I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it. … My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; the Lᴏʀᴅ will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem” (vv. 16–17).
Even greater glory is coming to Jerusalem! God will once again claim His Holy City in the “abundance of her glory” (Isa. 66:11), and in the Messianic Age, every believer will enjoy it with the Lord. I know I’m looking forward to that time. I’m sure you are, too!
If you believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, you have the promise of eternity with the Lord in New Jerusalem where every day can be a celebration like Jerusalem Day. With this perspective in mind, you can rejoice with those who celebrate this city every year and remember what God has done and will continue to do through one special city.