This year is the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War and June 7 will be the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the city of Jerusalem. That day, 50 years ago, marked the first time in 1,832 years that Jews ruled over the territory of the Old City. The last time had been in 135 CE, when the Bar Kochba Rebellion was ended by the Romans, who expelled the Jews from Judea and renamed the land of the Jews, “Palestina,” after the historical enemy of the Jews, the Philistines, in order to spite the Jews.
This month, we mark 50 years of Jewish sovereignty over the holiest of places for the Jewish people, 50 years of control over the territories of Judea and Samaria or the West Bank (the terminology that one uses to refer to the areas in question is politically loaded), 50 years of governing territories that many nations want Israel to give up, 50 years of Jewish control over territories believed to have been promised to the Jewish people by God in the Torah, 50 years of control of the Old City, Mt. Zion, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and of Hebron, the burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs which Jews mention in prayer multiple times a day. This month, we mark 50 years of a different sort of conflict between the Jews and Arabs.
For many reasons, today, a final status agreement addressing all of the concerns that currently divide the sides is not likely in the offing. But the current political climate leads to optimism that other types of agreements that improve the situation for both Israel and the Palestinians are more likely to achieve today than they have been, perhaps at any point since the conflict began. Most importantly, Israel’s relationships with its Sunni Muslim neighbors is relatively good with cooperation occurring in a number of ways even without formalized agreements. Israel today is an essential strategic and economic partner for its Sunni neighbors, prosperous and strong.
So as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, even though significant challenges remain, there is room for optimism for the future.
Rabbi David Kaufman