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How did staying up all night become a tradition on Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day? That is a good question.
The first people who stayed up all night on Yom Yerushalayim were those devout students who came to learn Torah in Israel in 1967. They thought it was Shavuot. Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyot, the second day of the holidays that Jews celebrate in the Diaspora, had them all discombobulated (a term used a lot in the 1960s). They heard there was a holiday at the end of the Omer, and they thought to celebrate Shavuot the right way, staying up all night and going to the Kotel.
The rabbis caught the devout pupils and let them know that Shavuot is a week away, and that they miscounted the Omer. One of the pupils responded, 'We lost count of the Omer weeks ago.' The other Talmid said, 'I stopped counting with a Bracha after the second day.' And the rabbis knew they had done a good job with these Talmidim.
When these trailblazers of the late ‘60s noticed all the religious Jerusalemite Jews driving, they understood that their rabbis were correct even though they speak English, and it wasn't a Torah holiday. First, they questioned if the Jews were in their cars to flee the war, but the Six Day War had ended. That was another argument. Some people thought it was a six-year war. The military insisted that it was called the Six Day War because they stopped fighting after six days. The political arguments and fighting in the Knesset lasted six years, causing for the confusion.
The students still didn't understand. The pupils asked what the day was, and the rabbis told them it was a day to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem. The students didn’t understand, as Jerusalem was already unified. They argued that they could go anywhere in the city. The Yeshiva students were forced to learn about the military and what history is, and thus became heretics.
Discussions of how long two thousand years is took place. That got nowhere, as the Jewish people decided to agree to disagree.
The Talmidim were still trying to figure out why there was another Aliyah LaRegel, going up to Jerusalem for the holiday, if this wasn't a Regel. Yet, the rabbis said, ‘This is a holiday, and Jerusalem is part of the name. So, you go up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem. Jerusalem.’ The students didn’t know how to take this. To quote Menachem, 'Rabbi. There are so many holidays in the Torah. I've already lost my last three jobs due to holidays. I don't think I can take more days off for another holiday.' So, the rabbis all agreed that you can shower on Yom Yerushalayim. The rabbis also declared that you can work on this day, which is why nobody works on Yom Yerushalayim.
The Rabbis Insisted
The rabbis explained that it's because of this day that we can go up to Jerusalem for the holidays, so they insisted on the holiday. And the rabbis started to give speeches till late at night, at Merkaz HaRav, to continue to convince people that this is an important day. Thus, every year, we start Yom Yerushalayim by listening to speeches by rabbis at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav; the people need to be re-convinced every year that Yom Yerushalayim is an important day.
The students were confused by having to listen to rabbis. To quote Menachem again, 'This feels like Shavuot.' So, they decided to be safe and to stay up all night, like on Shavuot, and go to the Kotel. They didn't learn. Though, it was still very meaningful as they stayed up all night.
The students still had questions. 'How is it a holiday if we can shower?' The rabbis had no answer. They just knew how bad the people smelled from walking to the Kotel, and they didn't want to have to deal with students coming up to ask questions, smelling real bad. The rabbis then reiterated the Yom Yerushalayim tradition of going to the Kotel, and 'you can't shower at the Kotel washing stations, as the basins are too small to bathe in.'
Arguments of Tradition Continue
It turned out that walking was big in the '90s and started to die out in the early 2000s, until 2018 when Jewish people thought that it would be a great tradition to walk to the Kotel on Yom Yerushalayim, to show their love for Jerusalem and to get in steps.
Health is very important. To quote the mayor, 'Obesity is the new war of Jerusalem.' Everybody hates that mayor for being the cause of baked falafel balls. As they used to walk from Merkaz HaRav, larger groups started walking from the entrance of the city to the Kotel. And the tradition thus remains of walking to the Kotel on the night of Yom Yerushalayim, as the traffic is too bad to take a car.
Why Not Sleep?
Ever tried sleeping at the Kotel?! Staying up all night began once they realized how uncomfortable it is to sleep on Jerusalem Stone.
I once heard of a man falling asleep on Jerusalem Stone, at which point they started the tradition of thousands of Zionistic Yeshiva kids dancing all night. They even started bringing bands. You can't sleep through that. They take out flags. Bands are playing. It's Gezel Sheyna (stealing sleep), and stealing sleep is forbidden.
Why Not Go Home?
The dancing would go till 3am, at which point there’s no way for these kids to get home. Nobody thought that part out. Thus, you have the Yom Yerushalayim tradition of staying up all night at the Kotel and homeless shelters in Jerusalem.
There were heretics who claimed that staying at the Kotel all night was not important. Once the deniers of all night Kotel staying got the Kotel, they realized that they left their cars at the entrance of the city. To quote Shmulik, who proclaimed that deniers should also keep the tradition, 'That's too far.'
When they noticed it was after midnight, and the streets were closed, due to people walking, they had no idea what to do. They couldn't catch a cab, so they decided to stay at the Kotel.
Kids Stay Out This Late
The kids who got caught in the flow of the dancing stayed out all night and realized their parents didn't care. Which is how underage drinking became a tradition on Yom Yerushalayim. It took the rabbis much convincing to get their pupils to not read the Megillah on Yom Yerushalayim.
Now there are thousands of Jews staying up all night at the Kotel on Erev Yom Yerhsalayim, and nobody showers.
Next year we will discuss the history of the Yom Yerushalayim Flag March and the flag shortage of 2013.
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