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What is Jerusalem Day? History of the holiday and its modern-day controversies

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Israelis hold Israeli flags and dance during the March of Flags at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, June 15, 2021. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Jerusalem Day is a national holiday that celebrates the unification of the city under Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967.

After the War of Independence in 1948, the city was divided with the eastern part falling under Jordanian control, while the newly-former State of Israel made the western part of the city its new capital.

But on June 7, 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israeli troops gained access to the Western Wall and all of East Jerusalem.

"We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel," then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared. "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."

The day is celebrated annually with parades and a flag march through the city. The recognition of Jerusalem Day has become important to the religious Zionist Jewish community in Israel, but is less observed by secular Israelis, those outside the city or in the diaspora.

In the last several years, the holiday itself and the accompanying Flag March have stirred controversy between Israelis and Palestinians and in 2021, resulted in Hamas firing rockets at Jerusalem which led to an 11-day war between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli sovereignty over the eastern part of Jerusalem remains a controversial issue and is not internationally recognized to this day. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, whereas Israel calls the city its undivided capital.

In recognition of the city as Israel's capital, in 2018, the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv under former President Donald Trump. The U.S. Embassy relocation was followed by a few other countries who moved their embassies to Jerusalem, including Guatemala and Honduras.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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