The 28th of Iyar, is the day when in 1967 the city of Yerushalayim was liberated and reunited. The Kosel HaMa’aravi was returned to Jewish hands and for the first time in almost 2000 years, Jews were granted by Hashem total free access to the Western Wall. For the first time in almost 2000 years, any Jew of any affiliation could approach the Wall at any time of the day or night; on any day of the calendar; in snow, in rain, in summer and in winter; the Wall was open for all to come and pour out their hearts to Hashem.
The Jewish Quarter was returned to Jewish hands and the city of Jerusalem became united.
There are many different Jews in the world and they have many different ways of marking different days.
The 28th of Iyar is one of those days where the Jewish people have different ways of observing the day.
There are those who say Hallel and there are those who don’t.
There are those who celebrate openly and there are those who do not.
However, obviously we have to respect all of our Jewish brethren and never ridicule them for what they personally do or do not do.
The 28th of Iyar is also the Yahrtziet of the Navi Shmuel. The Navi Shmuel who is buried near Ramot in Yerushalayim and whose resting place is called Nebi Samuel (‘the prophet Shmuel’ in Arabic). While many Jews go to the Wall or other places in Yerushalayim to celebrate, there are also many people who go to the Kever (gravesite) of Shmuel HaNavi today.
In 1979, I was one of those who climbed the minaret atop the kever of the prophet. As I was exiting the gravesite, I noticed a number of IDF soldiers who were guarding the sacred place.
It was a hot day and the soldiers in their battle dress and helmets were no doubt hot and sweaty. Suddenly I noticed an elderly Chareidi Jew with a rabbinic frock and stiff wide-brimmed hat leave the ‘line’ of those exiting the gravesite and make a bee-line to the soldiers.
He removed from his bag a small meimea (canteen) and some plastic cups and proceeded to pour water for all the soldiers while thanking them and making friendly small talk. I watched in amazement as the majority of the petitioners just walked on not even noticing the soldiers. It made no different if these Jews were Chareidi, Modern Orthodox, Dati Leumi or whatever; almost everyone else except this elderly Chareidi Rav quickly passed the soldiers without so much as a hello.
As I intensely observed the elderly Rav’s behavior he turned to me and said, “Why do you look so surprised by my actions?”
“Whatever my point of view is about Zionism, the State and the army, one thing is for sure; without the soldiers we could not have come here to pray today.”
“Without their valor and bravery, we would not be permitted to daven at most of the holy places of the Holy Land. So whatever I personally feel, one thing is for sure: I and all of us have to remember to say thank you. That is what I was doing. I said to the soldiers ‘thank you’. For one thing is for certain, whatever my personal philosophical outlook is regarding the State, ‘thank you’ must always be said.”
I then said to myself, “If Hashem will one day grant me the privilege to be a Rav, then that Chareidi Rav will be a role model for me. For whatever happens I must never forget to say ‘thank you’”.