(Communicated by Prime Minister’s Media Advisor)
The following is Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s address to the Knesset delivered on May 29, 1995, on the occasion of Jerusalem Day, 1995:
Mr. Speaker, Honored Knesset,
Giora Ashkenazi was 31 years old at his death. I did not know him. All I know about him comes from a few lines in the "Yizkor" (memorial) book.
Giora Ashkenazi, born on Kibbutz Nir David in the Beit Shean Valley, was father to a daughter. He had dreams. Giora fell 2-3 kilometers from here, in the battle for Jerusalem, 28 years ago. His life ended en route to Augusta Victoria.
Eight hundred IDF soldiers fell during the Six-Day War, 181 of them in Jerusalem. Each of them was an entire world to himself, to his parents, to his family, to his children. Each of them had a dream that was cut short on the way to the Old City.
The Six-Day War was a war which erupted only when we could no longer continue, when there was no other choice. At that time, we did everything everything to prevent war.
And yet, when there was no choice, the forces were given the order "Red Sheet," the order which sent them to war. We knew that the soldiers’ feelings of "no choice" would lead to military achievements, but we also knew that many fighters would not return home.
There are no happy wars. In the Six-Day War, as in all the wars forced upon us, our triumphant victory was intermingled with our sorrow over the death of our sons. If shouts of joy overcame tears of bereavement, it was only because of the feeling of relief that followed the many days of pressure and the anxious nights.
We did not embark on the Six-Day War in order to conquer or annex. We went to war in order to live and confer life on coming generations. According to the Government’s orders, we did not, then, initiate war with Jordan. The signal was given only when Jordan joined the war. Only then was the order given to OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Uzi Narkis and brigade commanders Eliezer Amitai, Uri Ben-Ari, and Motta Gur they and their soldiers liberated and reunified Jerusalem.
There was one moment in the Six Day War which symbolized the great victory: that was the moment in which the first paratroopers under Gur’s command reached the stones of the Western Wall, feeling the emotion of the place; there never was, and never will be, another moment like it.
Nobody staged that moment. Nobody planned it in advance. Nobody prepared it and nobody was prepared for it; it was as if Providence had directed the whole thing: the paratroopers weeping loudly and in pain over their comrades who had fallen along the way, the words of the Kaddish prayer heard by Western Wall’s stones after 19 years of silence, tears of mourning, shouts of joy, and the singing of "Hatikvah".
For me personally on that day, it was as if a personal circle had been closed and if I had merited only that, it would have been for me.
Nineteen years previously, in the War of Independence, I had the privilege to command the Palmach’s Harel Brigade, which together with fighters from other units, broke the siege of Jerusalem.
Hundreds of fighters fell in Jerusalem and the surrounding hills. Even today, we carry with us the memory of the burned-out armored cars opposite Beit Machsir, the burning trucks at Bab al-Wad, and the thousands of Jerusalemites who went out into the streets that were still being shelled, in order to receive the few food parcels.
We did not then succeed in liberating the Old City, and over the years, we lived with the painful feeling that the city was divided and that the remnant of the Temple was in the hands of foreigners. For 19 years, the paths to the Western Wall were desolate: "The market square is empty, and no one visits the Temple Mount in the Old City," in the words of poet Naomi Shemer.
The authors of the victory in Jerusalem during the Six Day War were, first and foremost, and above all, the 181 IDF soldiers paratroopers, tankists from the 10th Brigade, and soldiers from the Jerusalem Brigade whose lives ended here, opposite the Old City walls. The parents, wives, children, brothers and sisters of those who fell share in the victory.
Also among those who led us to victory are those who are not here with us today: then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, and then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, of blessed memory. We also recall today the memories of ministers Yigal Allon and Menachem Begin of blessed memory who took a major part in the decision to liberate Jerusalem. We owe them a debt of honor.
Members of Knesset,
We are divided in our opinions, on the Left and the Right. We argue over courses of action and over purpose. I believe that there is no argument on one matter the wholeness of Jerusalem, and its continued existence as the capital of the State of Israel. I said yesterday, and repeat today, that there are not two Jerusalems; there is only one Jerusalem. From our perspective, Jerusalem is not a subject for compromise. Jerusalem was ours, will be ours, is ours and will remain as such forever.
At the same time, it is our supreme obligation as Jews and Israelis to show genuine respect for members of the two other religions of whose lives and faiths Jerusalem is a part; to allow for freedom of religious worship for all those who come to the city, in all holy places; to demonstrate tolerance, and; to realize the saying: "Let every man live according to his faith."
Members of Knesset,
Jerusalem has been reunited, the market square is bustling with activity and the city’s streets are full of people.
Since Jerusalem was reunified, ten new neighborhoods have been created on 21,000 dunams of land which were expropriated for public use. In these neighborhoods about 42,000 apartments were built, housing about 150,000 people. This construction is what enabled the growth of the city’s population.
According to the estimate of the Central Bureau of Statistics, the city’s population stands at about 570,000. Tens of thousands of new immigrants have been absorbed in Jerusalem. In the year 2000, about 600,-650,000 people are expected to be living in Jerusalem.
But we will not deny that there are also shadows. In recent years, Jerusalem has recorded a negative migration balance.
Jerusalem is not only a focus of our prayers and longings. It must be built-up. All Governments of Israel have invested much in Jerusalem, and all Governments of Israel are worthy of praise for these efforts. The current Government has also invested, and will invest, much in infrastructure and development.
Teddy Kollek, as Mayor of Jerusalem, played a significant and considerable part in the building of the city, had the intelligence to navigate this stormy city. His successor, Ehud Olmert, is continuing with this building.
Members of Knesset,
In one of the Jerusalem Day ceremonies yesterday, I told about the incident when the first paratroopers arrived at the top of Ammunition Hill to find Arab families living in "Antenna House," just a few meters from the line of fire. The neighbors in this battle have been our neighbors ever since. This is the reality of living in Jerusalem: we live side by side, try to build a home, to build a city, to build a country, to build a people.
I appeal to the communities in Jerusalem to make every effort to live in peace, because this is the fate of Jerusalem to live together. There are not and will not be two Jerusalems. And anyone who tries to change the fate of Jerusalem will fail.
I opened today with a story about the life of paratrooper Giora Ashkenazi and his falling in the battle for Jerusalem.
On October 26, 1994, a peace treaty was signed with the support of the entire country, in the Arava between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the same Kingdom, the same King, the same army, which fought against us in Jerusalem. A ten year-old girl named Li Lotan presented King Hussein with flowers during the signing ceremony.
Li Lotan is the granddaughter of the paratrooper who fell in the battle for Jerusalem, Giora Ashkenazi. The grandfather did not live to see peace, but his granddaughter did.
The generation which experienced war is passing on to its grandchildren the realization of peace.