Under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which proposed the establishment of two states in British Mandatory Palestine – a Jewish state and an Arab state – Jerusalem was to be an international city, neither exclusively Arab nor Jewish for a period of ten years, at which point a referendum would be held by Jerusalem residents to determine which country to join. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, including the internationalization of Jerusalem, but the Arabs rejected the proposal.
This state of affairs changed in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War. Before the start of the war, Israel sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan, saying that Israel would not attack Jerusalem or the West Bank as long as the Jordanian front remained quiet. Urged by Egyptian pressure and based on deceptive intelligence reports, Jordan began shelling civilian locations in Israel, to which Israel responded on 6 June by opening the eastern front. The following day, 7 June 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem.
Later that day, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared what is often quoted during Jerusalem Day:
This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples’ holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity
On 12 May 1968, the government proclaimed a new holiday – Jerusalem Day – to be celebrated on the 28th of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the divided city of Jerusalem became one. On 23 March 1998, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Day Law, making the day a national holiday. One of the themes of Jerusalem Day, based on a verse from the Psalms, is “Built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together” (Psalm 122:3)
Today Israel turns its attention to celebrating her eternal capital – Jerusalem of gold.