A Jerusalem Vision, Jerusalem Day–Yom Yerushalayim

Aaron Ettinger was one of the paratroopers who fought in Jerusalem during the Six Day War, and was severely wounded on Salah e-Din Street near Damascus Gate.

A few years ago, at a Jerusalem Day sing-along at a synagogue around the corner from the President’s Residence, Aaron was given the microphone to recount his experiences during the two hellish days of the battle to liberate the city in June 1967.

The elderly, slightly portly man with a full head of white hair topped with a knitted kipa, spoke about the number of his comrades (mostly reservists from kibbutzim) who fell in the worst of the fighting that took place on the northern side of the Old City on Nablus Road, Salah e-Din Street and in front of Damascus Gate.

On Tuesday, June 6 1967, Aaron’s Tzanchanim (paratroopers) unit reported 100 dead and 600 injured. The death toll finally rose to 181, with more than 1000 wounded.

Aaron himself sustained critical injuries and eventually was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where he was initially listed as dead.

Damascus Gate was heavily damaged during the fighting and only fully restored in 2011. In recent years, Damascus Gate has been the scene of numerous stabbing attacks on Jewish Israelis and Israeli security personnel. At other times, it comes alive with the creative lighting designs of Jerusalem’s Light Festival projected onto her ancient stones. Tourists and Israelis alike flock to the spectacle.

On May 24th 2017, the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, thousands of people waving Israeli flags will pour through the Damascus Gate portal on their way to the celebration in front of the Kotel. Last year, Yom Yerushalayim coincided with the first day of Ramadan and toward evening, masses of Muslims marking the beginning of the month-long holiday took almost the same route through the gate, turning off to enter the Temple Mount via entryways that are closed to Jews and Christians for most of the day.

Who can say whether this was the Jerusalem envisioned by Aaron Ettinger and his fellow fighters? But for those of us who live here we honor their struggle and sacrifice that allow us to be part of the mosaic of Jerusalem.

(Image by Ohayon Avi, via the Government Press Office.)

Judy Lash Balint

Posted by Judy Lash Balint

​Judy Lash Balint is a Jerusalem based writer and photographer. She is the author of two volumes of Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times​ (Gefen & Xulon Press) and blogs at http://jerusalemdiaries.blogspot.co.il/ Judy hosted the Jerusalem Diaries Show on Voice of Israel between 2014-2015.

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