Address by PM Netanyahu on the occasion of Jerusalem Day
Honorable President, Mr. Shimon Peres,
Honorable Speaker of the Knesset, Mr. Reuven Rivlin,
President of the Supreme Court, Justice Dorit Beinish,
Ministers, Members of Knesset,
Chairman of the Opposition,
Israel's Chief Rabbi, Yona Metzger,
Chief of the General Staff, Maj. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi,
Dear Bereaved Families,
IDF Fighters and their Families,
Last night I returned to Jerusalem, our capital, from a very important visit to Washington, capital of the United States. It was very important for me to come back to participate in this ceremony and say the same things I said in the United States:
United Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem has always been - and always will be - ours. It will never again be divided or cut in half. Jerusalem will remain only under Israel's sovereignty. In united Jerusalem, the freedom of worship and freedom of access for all three religions to the holy sites will be guaranteed, and it is the only way to guarantee that members of all faiths, minorities and denominations can continue living here safely.
For nineteen years Jerusalem was a wounded city; a city at the heart of which were barbed wires and minefields, firing posts and "no-man's lands"; a city whose main streets were covered with defensive walls against snipers; a city whose residents could not move freely from place to place. In June 1967, this situation changed forever. It changed in this place, on Ammunition Hill, and in other heroic battles inside Jerusalem.
You, fighters for the liberation of Jerusalem, with your bodies and with the blood of your comrades, pried open the chokehold, united the city together, and allowed Jerusalem to be reopened once again as a lively, vibrant city.
I enlisted shortly after the liberation of Jerusalem and I met with one of the fighters, who is here with us today, Nir Nitzan. He did not voluntarily tell us; we had to repeatedly ask him to tell us what happened here, in that battle. Ultimately, quietly, shortly, dryly even, he told us a little of what took place here on that day, and we, as youngsters, stood in awe of the greatness of spirit, solidarity and sacrifice of those fighters who fought here, and the many others who fought in other places. The fighters who fell instilled pride in our people and gave us back our capital. As a boy, that day was etched in my memory. I remember the elation following the words of Motta Gur, when we heard the news on the radio and Motta Gur announced: "Har Habayit is in our hands!" The excitement we felt was something neither we nor any other Jew experienced for generations. It lifted the hearts of Jews all over the world.
Another remarkable thing happened: thousands, thousands of Israeli citizens, not only from Jerusalem, but from all over the country, rushed in masses into the Old City, passing through roads that were previously blocked, places we were never allowed to set foot in, through barbed wires, along the now shattered separation walls, climbing rocks and entering into back alleys - all of us heading towards the same place: the Western Wall. I remember that the square was narrow - in fact, there was no square at all - and the place was too narrow to contain the large masses, and each of us waited our turn to arrive at that ancient wall. I remember the beating of my heart and the exhilaration I felt when I first touched the stones of the Western Wall, thinking about King David, King Solomon, Israel's prophets and kings and the Maccabim. I thought about the people of Israel throughout the generations, as did the thousands of Israelis who arrived there. The liberation of Jerusalem and the Western Wall marked for all of us the deep connection to the roots of Jewish history. We felt that the dream of generations had finally come true.
Thousands of years ago, a Psalms poet wrote: "built-up Jerusalem is like a city that is united together". It is as if this song was written now about the events of our generation.
Look around you and see how Jerusalem is built, how it is connected, how it grows and develops to the east and west, north and south. Jews, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular, ultra-orthodox and conservatives live here in peace and good neighborly relations.
Look around you and see how vibrant and full of life Jerusalem is, during the day and night. The houses of prayer and synagogues are filled, as are the cafés and recreational places.
But Jerusalem is not only a city of the day-to-day or night life. It is first and foremost a city of sanctity, a city of vision, a city of prayer; the eyes of the entire world are fixed on Jerusalem. As Isaiah prophesized: "it will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Temple of the Almighty will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it, for from Zion will the Torah come forth, and the word of the Almighty from Jerusalem".
Since the unification of Jerusalem under Israel's flag, this prophecy has been gradually coming true. Never, in the thousands of years of its history, has Jerusalem been so great and remarkable, never did it have such freedom of worship for members of all faiths and such free access to all places of worship. Pilgrims, believers and visitors from all ends of the universe visit Jerusalem every day.
Our connection to Jerusalem is thousands of years old. As a people, we have never relinquished "the apple of our eye", the object of our prayers, our nation's capital, Jerusalem. Today, as a state, we are fulfilling this age-old yearning, this ancient wish.
The greatest hardships, exiles and difficulties in history could never dissuade us from pursuing the realization of the Jewish people's dream of generations - the establishment of a state in the land of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital. This was the wish of every Jew in exile, at every community and in every prayer: "next year in built-up Jerusalem". I believe that only the reuniting of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty would enable us to quickly fulfill the second part of Isaiah's prophecy: "they shall beat their swords into plowshares.nation will not lift sword against nation and they will no longer learn how to wage warfare".
This is our prayer, and this is our hope here in Jerusalem.