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.
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The Six Day 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 Western Wall (The Kotel) - 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 - 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.