Dancing at the Western Wall, 1967
This photograph was taken in June 1967 just after Israeli soldiers arrived at the Kotel having captured the Old City. The dancing soldiers, some of whom are carrying guns, having being fighting fierce battles on the streets of Jerusalem only hours previously, look happy and emotional. The soldiers in this photograph seem to be in their thirties and forties and were probably reserve duty soldiers who had been called up during the war.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. The Old City, including the Temple Mount and the Kotel, were under Jordanian rule. In the nineteen years between the establishment of the State and 1967, Jews had no access to the Kotel.
The Six Day War broke out on June 5, 1967. On June 7, IDF paratroopers advanced from Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem towards the Old City that was under Jordanian rule. The soldiers captured the Old City bringing Jerusalem's holiest sites under Jewish control for the first time in 2000 years.
Lt. General Mordechai (Motta) Gur captured the moving moments when he approached the Old City:
We're sitting right now on the ridge and we're seeing the Old City. Shortly we're going to go into the Old City of Jerusalem that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City...
Not long after this, he declared the now famous words:
The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!
General Rabbi Shlomo Goren, chief rabbi of the IDF, sounded the Shofar at the Kotel to signify its liberation. This was a joyful and momentous occasion for Israelis and Jews all over the world.
The Kotel is a small segment of the retaining wall of the Second Temple which, according to tradition, was rebuilt on the foundations of the First Temple built by King Solomon. The Second Temple is thought to have been built by the Jews on their return from exile in around 512BCE, and King Herod is seen as responsible for its rebuilding and expansion. The temple lasted until its destruction by the Romans in 70CE.
The Temple Mount is considered the most sacred site for the Jewish people. The Binding of Isaac is said to have taken place on the mountain, and both the First and the Second Temples were built here with the Holy of Holies, the two tablets of stone given to Moses on Mount Sinai, at their centre. Despite the importance of the Temple Mount, Jewish law prohibits Jews from entering certain parts of the site.
The Temple Mount is also sacred for Muslims, considered the third holiest site in Islam due to the belief that it is from here that Mohammed ascended to heaven. The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock testify to the significance of the site. Due to Jewish law and the political status quo, even though the holiest Jewish place is the actual site of the Temples which is behind it, the Kotel is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray.
Teachers of Jewish History can use this resource to teach about the Six Day War and about the city of Jerusalem in the years before and after the war.
Teacher of Jewish Studies can use it to teach about the First and Second Temples and the deep connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount.
Teachers of Religious Studies can teach about the three monotheistic religions and the centrality of Jerusalem to each.
Relevant NLI Links
The Six Day War, CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)
The Kotel, The Kotel Heritage Foundation
US Official Raps 'Biased' UNESCO Resolution on Jerusalem, Times of Israel, Eric Cortellessa, May 2, 2017
Who is in the picture?
What are they holding?
What are they doing?
What is the wall in the background?
How do you think they are feeling?
Reading Between the Lines
Why do you think all of the soldiers look happy?
When do you think this photograph was taken? What was the occasion?
Why were the soldiers rejoicing next to the Kotel?
Why were all the Jews in Israel and in the Jewish world so moved when they heard that the Israeli army had captured the Kotel?
Despite the great happiness evident in this picture, many people also felt great sadness at that time. Why do you think this was the case?
What is the significance of the Kotel to the Jewish people?
Which other religions consider this part of Jerusalem to be holy?
The Kotel is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray.
Is it actually the most sacred place for the Jewish people?
If not, why don't Jews pray at this place?
What are the Israeli government's responsibilities towards the other religions with regards to Jerusalem and the area of the Kotel?
What is the status of Jerusalem today with regards to the other religions?
What does the Kotel mean to you?
Have you ever been there?
How did you feel?
What did you do?
Do you have photographs next to the Kotel? Share them with your class.
Ask your grandparents if they have memories of Jerusalem before and immediately after the Six Day War.
How did they feel when they heard that the Kotel was in Jewish hands?
Write the diary entry of a soldier who was part of the brigade that recaptured the Old City.
This photograph shows soldiers at Kotel in 1967.
Create an exhibition in your classroom or online of the Kotel at different times in history.