Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day)

Following World War II and the establishment of the state of Israel, four new holidays, referred to as ‘modern’ Jewish holidays have been added to the Jewish calendar. Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day)Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) are observed as national holidays in Israel, and recognized around the world by Jewish communities.

Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day, is a time set aside to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the older part of the city in June 1967. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared the day a minor religious holiday, thanking God for the victory in the Six-Day War and for answering the centuries old prayer for the “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

As a public holiday in Israel, the 28th day of Iyar (which falls six weeks after Passover [learning-center/commemorate/jewish-holidays/passover/] and one week before Shavuot)[ learning-center/commemorate/jewish-holidays/shavuot/] finds most businesses closed for the day of celebration. Even outside of Israel, Jewish owned businesses may close or offer limited services, while schools mark the day with festivities and learning.

Yom Yerushalayim is the most recent addition to the Hebrew calendar.

Dates for Yom Yerushalayim 

Hebrew Dates: 28 Iyar
5776
28 Iyar
5777
28 Iyar
5778
28 Iyar
5779
Gregorian Dates:
(begins sundown, evening before)
June 5
2016
May 24
2017
May 13
2018
June 2
2019

 

History
Shortly after Israel declared its independence in 1948, neighboring Arab nations attacked the newly formed country in a series of battles known as the Arab-Israeli War. Following the war, terms were established leaving the city of Jerusalem under divided control. Israeli forces controlled most of the city, but East Jerusalem, including what became known as the Old City, was controlled by Jordanian forces.

The Old City was important to all concerned because of its religious significance. Inside the Old City were the Dome of the Rock and al-Asqa Mosque (Muslim); the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christian); and the Temple Mount and Western Wall (Judaism).

One June 7, 1967, on the first day of the Six-Day War, the Israeli armed services captured the old city of Jerusalem, reunifying the city.

The anniversary of this reunification under Israel’s government is a source of contention for many. While strong Zionists see this as a day of celebration, some Jews along with most Muslims, see this as a day of mourning. 

Customs and Rituals
For those who celebrate the day, Yom Yerushalayim is a time for the recitations of the Hallel prayer for praise and thanksgiving. Synagogues will hold special services, parades will fill the streets, parties, singing and dancing, and special family meals will highlight the activities. Schools and synagogues will hold guest lectures on the history and future of Jerusalem. In the city itself, memorial services and public ceremonies will be held honoring those who died during the Six-Day War.

Funerals and Mourning during Yom Yerushalayim


Jewish teaching is very specific about how the deceased should be properly mourned by the family and there are defined Periods of Mourning in Judaism. The most noticeable characteristic of Jewish mourning is the withdrawal of the family to their home following the death of a close relative.

The Jewish burial has unique and specific requirements; most notably, the burial usually takes place within a couple of days after the death. It is usually a time of stress and busyness for the family, as many decisions and details surrounding the funeral must be considered. A telephone call relaying personal condolences would be welcomed.

Public viewing of the body is against Jewish law and tradition. There is no equivalent to the wake or funeral visitation. Today Jewish funerals are held at a funeral home, synagogue, cemetery building or graveside. Attending a funeral is a demonstration of care and concern for the surviving family and respect for the deceased. Invitations to a funeral are rarely offered, but friends are always encouraged to attend. In Judaism accompanying the family to the gravesite is one of the highest forms of kindness.

After the burial, the first a period of mourning begins. Shiva (meaning “seven”) consists of seven days of mourning during which family members remain in their home. During shiva the family would stay home from work, refrain from public appearances, and not conduct any business transactions. Friends and family members would reach out to the bereaved by visiting the home to offer comfort and support.

The festive nature of Yom Yerushalayim would disrupt the mourning traditions of shiva. However, because times are set aside for remembrance during the holiday, it would be permissible for the family to attend services, but they should not participate in any leadership role. If at least three days of shiva had been honored, the remaining portion of the mourning could be suspended.

Because of the sensitive nature of the time of loss, a rabbi should be consulted for proper procedures for mourning during the holiday, particularly in complicated situations. The rabbi will take into account the circumstances, traditions and Scripture and offer guidance.

Remembering Loved Ones during Yom Yerushalayim
Though Yom Yerushalayim is a primarily a time to celebrate, moments are set aside to commemorate, honor and reflect on those who lost their lives in service to their city and country. Remembering the lost becomes especially meaningful if a family member served in the military.

Because Jewish festivals contain moments of remembrance and family, the modern holiday of Yom Yerushalayim is an appropriate time to honor deceased family members as well. Lasting tributes such as contributions to charities, hospitals or hospices, synagogues or other organizations provide meaningful memorials for departed loved ones.

The tradition of inscribing one’s name in the book of life is a common occurrence in the Jewish faith. Families may visit the cemetery and place a stone at the graveside, plant a tree in Israel, or dedicate a name plaque. Other meaningful and appropriate ways to memorialize a loved one include the creation of a Plaque and Memory page online through the National Jewish Memorial Wall (NJMW.org). The inclusion on a memorial or yahrzeit wall is a meaningful way to show honor and respect for the deceased.