"My soul yearns and even faints for the holy land." My great-great-grandfather, the saintly Chief Rabbi of Constantine, Algeria in the late 1800s, Rabbi Sidi Bahe Eliyahu Allouche, wrote these words with tears, as he longed to live in the holy city of Jerusalem. Following a perilous journey, his life-long dream was fulfilled and he arrived to Jerusalem in 1891... But why would so many of our people throughout history embark on a danger-filled journey to settle in a faraway land? Because Israel is our home, and Jerusalem is its most intimate bedroom. Or, as Elie Wiesel beautifully put it: "When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time, it is a homecoming."

Rabbi Allouche

“My soul yearns and even faints for the holy land.”

My great-great-grandfather, the saintly Chief Rabbi of Constantine, Algeria in the 1880s and 1890s, Rabbi Sidi Bahe Eliyahu Allouche, wrote these words with tears, as he longed to live in the holy city of Jerusalem.

With tremendous self-sacrifice and perilous risks, his life-long dream was fulfilled. In 1891, at the ripe age of 77, arrived at the shores of Haifa, after a long and tedious journey. A year later, he passed away, and he was buried in the Mount of Olives in the outskirts of Jerusalem’s old city.

This was the story of so many of our ancestors who “made Aliyah” and moved to Israel from all four corners of the world.

Why, one may wonder, would so many of our people leave the comfort of their home – sometimes as elderly and fragile beings – and embark on a danger-filled journey to settle in a faraway land? Why did their souls boil from within and “yearn and even faint for the holy land”?

Because Israel is our home, and Jerusalem is its most intimate bedroom. Or, as Elie Wiesel beautifully put it: “When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time, it is a homecoming.”

This is why every time we pray, we turn toward Jerusalem, and we beseech G-d to “return to Jerusalem” and “re-establish the throne of David within its walls.” Every Passover, we conclude the Seder with the reverberating wish of “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Every time we eat, we ask G-d to “rebuild Jerusalem, bring us up into it, and gladden us in its rebuilding.” And every time a Jewish couple enters into the covenant of marriage, they pledge to never forget Jerusalem, while proclaiming the words of the Psalmist: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

Today, Jews worldwide will be celebrating “Yom Yerushalayim,- Jerusalem Day.” On this day, we rejoice and offer our words of gratitude to God, for the miracle of the liberation of our home, Jerusalem, by the Israeli Defense Force during the six-day war, exactly 53 years ago.

I can still hear the words of “Motta” Gur, the commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, on that day, broadcasting the famous words on his army wireless device: “Har HaBayit BeYadeinu,”–The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!” These words sent shivers down the collective spine of our people.

Yet, this miracle has yet to be completed. Yes, 53 years ago, Jerusalem, our home, was returned to us. But we must now return to it, fully, unreservedly.

We ought to recommit ourselves to our home and its majestic story and add to its infinite treasures, our own pages of Jewish life and living. And we ought to join our light to its Divine light, and illuminate every corner of our world, with acts of goodness, and deeds of kindness.

Amen.

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