[Check out www.flickr.com/photos/jerusalemdiaries for a series of photos from the Jerusalem Day Celeberations]
The amplified wail of the muezzin from the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount couldn't drown out the celebrations ringing out over Jerusalem tonight.
From every corner of the Old City, youthful voices join in singing all the classic Six Day War and Jerusalem songs as the city celebrates the 38th anniversary of reunification.
Groups of teenagers clad in blue and white, many sporting orange anti-Gaza retreat ribbons laced through their backpacks, dance in front of the Kotel and clog downtown streets.
After an early evening parade of 10,000 participants that included contingents from every regional council in Israel, various army bands, street performers and musicians wound its way through the center of the city ending in Sacher Park, Jerusalemites started dispersing to one of the myriad of events marking the opening of Jerusalem Day.
The main challenge of the day is getting anywhere. With roads closed throughout the city center, driving is out of the question. Many bus routes suspend operations for a couple of hours during the parade, and getting close to the Old City is virtually impossible except on foot, so thousands take to the streets in a jovial mass of Jerusalem humanity.
Over at Sultan's Pool, the outdoor concert area just below the Old City walls, thousands gathered for a concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Ethnix band. A long list of popular entertainers wowed the crowd who paid only $5 per ticket, thanks to subsidies from the Jerusalem Foundation. The climax of the evening was a spectacular fireworks show over the walls of the Old City.
In the southern wall excavation area, Tehilla, the organization promoting religious aliya, held a dinner honoring the 100th pilot trip of prospective immigrants, as well as some long time volunteers.
"There's no view like that anywhere in the world," exclaimed one participant as we walked through the Davidson Center out into the dusk of a cool Jerusalem evening with the Kotel to the left of us; the Mt of Olives cemetery in front of us still visible in the waning light and the excavations of the southern wall area under our feet.
The main speaker was former Prisoner of Zion Yosef Mendelevich, who spoke of how the Six Day War was the catalyst that rekindled Jewish pride amongst Jewish youth all across the former Soviet Union.
Against the imposing backdrop of the remnants of the walls of the Temple Mount Mendelevich recounted the event that landed him in a Soviet prison camp for 11 years. In his usual modest fashion, he omitted mentioning his 25 years of work teaching Russian speaking olim since coming to Israel.
Beit Orot, the hesder Yeshiva on the Mt of Olives celebrated Yom Yerushalayim in their usual festive manner, while three separate musical events took place at the Jerusalem Theater as part of the Israel Festival.
The festivities continue all day tomorrow with another parade, memorial ceremonies for the fallen soldiers of the Six Day War and the Mayor's annual open house reception at the Tower of David. It'll all be topped off with a series of outdoor evening concerts and a final fireworks display.
Layla tov for now...
PART 2, Monday, June 6:
Tens of thousands of Jews thronged Jerusalem's streets again today in a show of love for their city and in celebration of the 38th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
The parade of flags brought hundreds of busloads of teenagers into Jerusalem from all over the country. Dressed in blue and white and carrying Israeli flags of all sizes, many were tagged with the orange ribbons of protest against the Gaza retreat.
The celebrants were not deterred by this morning's display of Arab violence against a group of Jews who had the audacity to actually go up to visit their holiest site, the Temple Mount. Hundreds of Arabs started pelting the Jews with rocks and stones, outraged at the affrontery of Jews in their midst. These days, it seems that any presence of Jews amongst Arabs is a provocation, whether it be Gush Katif or the Temple Mount. It's one of the most blatant expressions of racism in the world.
Still,the waves of people just kept on flowing into the Old City until the police had to halt entries into the Kotel Plaza for a time. Dancing and singing went on for hours, with various Hasidic music stars playing from the stage.
A different type of entertainment wrapped up the Jerusalem Day celebrations over at the Haas Promenade, where Israel's Eurovision Song Contest contestant Shiri Maimon belted out some of her best numbers to an appreciative crowd. The stunning vista of Jerusalem provided a fitting backdrop to her lively performance.