Ahead of Jerusalem Day, the Knesset will unveil a small shelter in which the government of Levi Eshkol made the historic decision to unify Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.
Yechiel Kadishai, a longtime aide to the late prime minister Menachem Begin, revealed during a newspaper interview that the decision to liberate Jerusalem was reached at the Knesset building. Kadishai, who was niftar a few months ago, said that on the day the war erupted, June 5, 1967, the government convened in order to approve the entrance of Ministers Begin and Yosef Sapir into the unity government.
The government convened in its conference room on the second floor of the Knesset, but then Jordanian forces began to bomb areas near the parliament building. The shells hit the President’s Residence and the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, and the attack left 15 civilians dead. The Knesset’s ushers accompanied the ministers to the shelter where they heard about the outbreak of the war that morning and about the destruction of the Arab states` air forces.
As the shelling continued, the government discussed the initiative of Ministers Begin and Yigal Alon to liberate Jerusalem`s Old City, which had been under Jordanian control since the War of Independence. The government authorized the plan, and two days later, at 10 am, IDF forces arrived at Har Habayis and the Kosel.
At the time Begin said a sign should be placed at the entrance to the shelter – which had been used for years as a storage room – because that was where the government decided on the liberation of Jerusalem.
Employees from the Knesset`s Spokesperson`s Office read the interview with Kadishai in the Makor Rishon newspaper and invited him to tour the parliament building in order to search for the historic room. Kadishai found the room, and the Knesset restored it. The room will now be one of the stops on the tour of the Knesset, and it will also house a small exhibit depicting the Knesset`s important role in one of the most significant events in Israeli history.
”The Knesset played a central role in the Six-Day War, as it has in every dramatic event in the country’s history,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said. ”There are countless pieces of history within the Knesset`s walls, but it is thrilling to find and restore the room in which the decision to liberate Jerusalem was made”.
The ceremony marking the dedication of the ”Jerusalem Unification Room” will take place on Tuesday, 27 Iyar, the eve of Jerusalem Day, at 13:00 at nearby Sprinzak Hall, with the participation of Knesset Speaker Edelstein, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and members of the Eshkol, Kadishai and Begin families.
During the ceremony, a film produced by the Knesset Channel about the room and the events that took place inside it will be screened. The film was directed by Hadas Levi Setzemsky. The exhibit`s curator is Sharon Sofer and it was designed by Liat Yehuda. Research was conducted by Yigal Amitai from the Knesset Spokesperson’s Office
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)