The 49th anniversary of the reunification of Israel’s capital finds Jerusalem in a clear trend of development, prosperity and accomplishments that inspire pride. There are many issues and challenges that we must address, and we are and will continue to do so.
However, one thing is clear: Jerusalem, the beating heart of our nation, our united capital, is advancing by leaps and bounds. We see this in the construction, the cranes, the roads, the institutions located here, in the factories. I refer to software factories, because out of Zion shall come forth software and it is. It is coming forth in completely new and unexpected places, for example in the automotive industry, as a global player, and so on and so forth.
Numerous crowns have been placed on Jerusalem’s head, from Biblical times through the present day. There is a reason it creates a unifying experience between generations. We, the adults, remember the Jerusalem that was divided until the Six Day War. We remember what was on the other side, when Israel did not have security control beyond the barbed wire fences, in the minefields, the no-man’s land. The younger people here were born into a different era. They visit the battlegrounds, especially Ammunition Hill. They read about the heroism of our fighters who fought the most justified of defensive wars and achieved a glorious victory. They hear the stories of divided Jerusalem, which for 19 years was the front line and a frontier town. That is what it was.
Older Jerusalemites, children like me, remember them firing, always firing from east to west. We did not fire eastward. The enemy was literally a stone’s throw from us, and that is what happens when we do not have security control in the field. Of course, we do not want to return to that reality. I do not think that there is room for any apologetics. We do not need to make excuses for our being in Jerusalem.
Since our very beginning as a people, our existence was tied to Jerusalem, and the awareness of this privilege is the cornerstone of our national experience and our Zionist faith. Moreover, the vast majority of the public understands that only democratic Israel can safeguard Jerusalem’s existence as an open city, one that has freedom for all religions. Freedom of religion is conditional on tolerance and tolerance only exists if there is genuine willingness to respect the holy places of the other side and the sanctity of religion first and foremost.
Unfortunately, this does not happen in our region nowadays. The Middle East is rife with extremism and under sway to a dangerous atmosphere – who will expel whom, who will banish whom, who will destroy whom, who will destroy the cultural treasures of the other side. Of course, influenced by these trends, we have, over the past year, witnessed incidents of incitement and extremism in relation to the Temple Mount. Claims were made against us that we allegedly sought to harm the al-Aqsa Mosque, something which was not and will never be true.
This old lie has been revived. It was applied to my grandfather’s generation several short years after he immigrated to Israel in 1920. The same lie has been revived, and this severe incitement is of course also at the core of the current wave of terror, which has led to the injury of innocent people. Apparently this lie has legs because it has travelled as far as the UN headquarters at UNESCO. The organization charged by the UN to preserve the world’s heritage recently determined that the Temple Mount has no connection to the Jewish people. We have no connection with the Temple Mount. This claim is so absurd and so outrageous that I cannot get over it. Not only is it ridiculous, but this absurdity and this lie are making the rounds the world over – we have no connection with the Temple Mount.
Our forefathers visited the Temple Mount 3,800 years ago. The two temples of the Jewish people stood on the Temple Mount for one thousand years. King David built his palace in the City of David adjacent to the Temple Mount and made Jerusalem our capital 3,000 years ago, and ever since, the Jewish people have prayed in the direction of the Temple Mount and its image has decorated their homes – and we have no connection with the Temple Mount. The Jews’ ongoing affinity with the Temple Mount is a basic fact of history that only ignorant people, either by force or willingly, deny.
I must say here: These distortions of history are only reserved for the Jews. Does anyone claim that the pyramids in Giza have no connection to the Egyptians? That the Acropolis in Athens has no connection to the Greeks? That the Coliseum in Rome has no connection to the Italians? It is ridiculous to try and sever the connection between the Temple Mount and the Jewish people.
Of course, the truth is the complete opposite. We, the people of Israel, have a primal claim on Jerusalem. Our roots here are deeper than any other peoples, and the same is true about the Temple Mount. Jerusalem was ours and it will be ours.
I believe that the Six Day War made it clear to our enemies that we are here to stay. The same spirit of the liberators of Jerusalem beats in our hearts. Over the past year, we have stood firm against bloodthirsty terrorists. We took determined action against them – in any place, at any time, without limits. We can see that we succeeded in sharply reducing the number of terrorist attacks. I cannot say that we have "yet come to the resting place or to the heritage". We are doing everything we can to ensure that quiet will prevail in the capital and anywhere else in Israel. However, with regard to the capital, I wish to say – and especially with regard to the Temple Mount before Ramadan begins – that we made efforts, and I would say massive efforts, during Passover so that this spark would not be reignited.
The incitement and provocations concerning the Temple Mount played an important role in igniting the phenomenon of the individual terrorists, as we call them, seven months ago – and their numbers have gradually decreased. We spoke with neighboring Arab countries; we spoke with various publics; we spoke with the media; our representatives appeared in the Arab-language media; and we told the truth, the truth I am telling you now, regarding our intention to preserve the status quo. We succeeded in reducing the tension and in preventing its reoccurrence during Passover. Now Ramadan is about to begin and we are making that same effort, I hope with the full cooperation of all the members of Knesset and of all our neighbors.
Clearly, the violence will not overcome us and it will not weaken our hold on Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a mixed city. There is a complex web of relations between Jews and non-Jews here, and of course there is tension between the populations. By the way, this characterizes other mixed cities around the world, almost all of them. However, coexistence continues even if it is occasionally undermined. I believe that most of the residents of East Jerusalem want quiet, and I think we should not allow anyone to ignite a conflagration, to inflame the extremists. When they tried to do so, we acted decisively. If they try doing it again, we will act similarly in the future.
In the meanwhile, Mr. Mayor, we are contributing a measure of security, in full cooperation with each other under your leadership, but with the full support of the Government, and I believe also of the majority of members of Knesset – a measure of security and also of beauty. Herzl visited Jerusalem 118 years ago, and he found a rather neglected city. He wrote that it was filled with nests of filth that had to be removed. However, despite this, he emphasized, "Even in its current state of destruction, it is still a beautiful city and it could, if we come here, be one of the most beautiful cities in the world again."
I think that Herzl would appreciate that he was right in this prediction as well, because the act of building Jerusalem, its establishment, rehabilitation and development have made it into such a city, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, certainly the most beautiful city for our people and for our children. It is the largest of Israel’s cities and a vibrant metropolis. It has been resurrected and it is flourishing.
The best way to describe Jerusalem is as an extremely old city, as it is thousands of years old, but one that is renewing its adolescence, and it still has a great many steps before all its problems can be resolved. However, I believe that something new is developing here. There are new energies here, and we are not only rehabilitating its spectacular ruins, we are advancing capabilities for innovation and opportunities that we never dreamed would be found in this city just years ago.
Several weeks ago, we placed a cornerstone nearby for the new location of the National Library. The Jerusalem of the spirit marches hand-in-hand with the Jerusalem of daily life – on the streets, in the markets, in the shopping centers, in the hi-tech factories. The road to Jerusalem is changing, with added lanes and train tracks. This week, the first part of the new Moza bridge was connected, and the second part will open soon as well. Every Jerusalemite and anyone who has travelled up to Jerusalem welcomes this wonderful change. The dangerous curve near Moza is in the past.
We are entering the jubilee year of the unification of Jerusalem. We still have a great many plans up our sleeves and many initiatives to advance the capital from end to end. We will continue to ensure that Jerusalem, our united capital, will be open and prosperous, with its face to the future, to coexistence and to peace.
"Judah will exist forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation…"
"For he has strengthened the bars of your gates, and blessed your children in your midst."