When Israel’s War of Independence concluded, Israel controlled the new city of Jerusalem, but Jordan controlled the Old City, where the Western Wall is located.
In the armistice agreement, Jordan agreed to permit Jews to visit and pray at the Western Wall. However, it never honored that agreement, and instead forbade Jews from entering the Old City.
On Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), we celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War.
(David Rubinger’s famous photograph of IDF soldiers after liberating the Western Wall in June 1967)
On June 7, 1967, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared:
This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples’ holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity.