On the eve of the Six Day War, Haim Sabato was 16 years old. The impending war had cast its long shadow over the city and its inhabitants. A Civil Defense officer came to Sabato’s school to recruit boys for grave digging on Mount Herzl and filling sand bags for protection. The bomb shelters in the city were opened and cleaned and the cook in Sabato’s yeshiva cut back on food for meals. The feeling was that the State of Israel was facing an existential threat.
When war broke out, its echoes reached Bayit Vagan, Sabato’s neighborhood where the yeshiva and his home in Beit Mazmil were located. During the time he was in yeshiva the students gathered in the shelter and read Psalms, while at home, the families found safety in a nearby school shelter. When someone asked him to buy milk Sabato jumped at the opportunity to escape the tense atmosphere and go out on the street and he slowly walked to the shops. All of a sudden, the street burst out in happiness. Excited people rushed to the streets, waving newspapers and shouting: The Temple Mount is ours! In that street, people’s hearts opened up and they connected to each other.
Fifty years later, that moment is still alive in Sabato’s heart. Light filled the world for him on that day, and hope and joy have accompanied him ever since. Real unity prevailed then, a unity of hearts that was stronger than any disagreement or fight. A unity that reminded him of what he had learned about the coming of redemption.
On Shavuot that year, spontaneously and without any coordination whatsoever, groups of people wrapped in prayer shawls left their neighborhoods and flowed into Jaffa Street. A river of dancing people, Sabato among them, made their way to the Old City, towards the Western Wall.