The Honorable President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, and his wife, Nechama,
Members of Knesset,
Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat and his wife,
Ambassadors, including the Ambassador of Israel to the United States, Ron Dermer, and the Ambassador of the United States to Israel, David Friedman.
This is the first time a U.S. ambassador has joined us on Jerusalem Day. Mr. Ambassador, with a name like David – and your middle name is Melech, so David Melech, you are the right man with the right name at the right time in the right place– in King David’s city, in Jerusalem.
Tomorrow in Jerusalem we will warmly welcome a true friend of the State of Israel, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, and his wife, Melania.
Fifty years ago, the Jews returned to their homeland. Fifty years ago, an historic wrong was righted. Fifty years ago, we returned to the heart of our capital and our land. Fifty years ago, we did not conquer Jerusalem, we liberated it.
Through the heroism of our fighters and with the love of our people, Jerusalem was reunified, and for that I say today to the world in a clear and strong voice: Jerusalem was and always will be the capital of Israel. The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will always remain under Israeli sovereignty.
Those of us who witnessed the reunification of Jerusalem will always remember those moving moments fifty years ago. On the first morning of the battle, in my house not far from here, I awoke to the sound of a loud explosion. I hurried to the roof, and from there I watched the Jordanian mortar shells landing all around me, all over Jerusalem. Most of the shells fell in open space, but some of them landed on houses. People were killed and wounded. Nasser threatened to eradicate us and Jordan and Syria joined him. Our backs were up against the wall and we came together as one – soldiers and citizens, front line and home front.
The IDF – and I say this to you, Mr. Chief of General Staff, and those responsible for our security forces – the IDF fought with tremendous courage.
On the third day of the war, the news spread like wildfire: the Temple Mount and Western Wall were under our control. A loud roar rang out from on bomb shelter to the next. The spiritual uplifting was immense, not only in Israel but all over the Jewish world. Like a dam breaking, our feelings were unleashed and took us back to the days of King Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah, the Maccabees and Bar Kochba, Maimonides and the students of the Vilna Gaon, all of whom also planted their stakes in Jerusalem. Our paratroopers, with tears in their eyes, touched the stones of the liberated Western Wall.
Thousands of Israelis followed in their footsteps, a tremendous river of people, I among them. We flowed together, young and old, men and women, religious and secular. First we went through an opening near City Hall, then between the Old City wall and finally into the alleys leading to the Western Wall. I distinctly remember touching the enormous stones in awe and astonishment. I felt that the stones of the Western Wall were imbued with the soul of the nation. I must tell you I had the exact same reaction in Rachel’s Tomb, in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in all the places where the identity of the people of Israel was forged.
We returned to our origins, we returned to Jerusalem, over which we have the primordial right. In Jerusalem, whenever we dig into the soil, the remnants of our ancient past are uncovered. We wept a sea of tears for Jerusalem throughout the generations, by the rivers of Babylon and in Toledo, Casablanca and the Warsaw Ghetto.
Our constant vow “Next year in Jerusalem” has no parallel in history. Despite our strong and unique connection with Jerusalem, which is as bright as the sun at high noon, some people still choose to deny our clear attachment to it. They arrogantly portray us as foreigners in our own land, in our capital.
No, my friends. It is not our devotion to Jerusalem that requires explanation, but rather the disgraceful attempts to erase our connection to Jerusalem and our sovereignty in Jerusalem. Where was UNESCO and its ilk when, for 19 years, we were denied free access to the Jewish holy places? Why is their voice not heard when every trace of Jewish existence is destroyed in East Jerusalem? And yet, even when faced with this display of hypocrisy, which is regrettably reaching incredible new heights, we will continue to insist on the truth with all our might: since ancient times, Jerusalem has always only been the national capital of the people of Israel, and not of any other people.
We do not need to excuse our presence in Jerusalem. We do not need to apologize for it. We are in Jerusalem by right, the highest right, and this right is only strengthened by our being the one true democratic country in the Middle East.
In the Middle East, minorities are persecuted and killed. Houses of prayer are destroyed – churches, synagogues, mosques. Holy sites are razed to the ground and rare treasures of heritage are erased from the earth. In contrast, look at what is happening in Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. We rigorously protect the holy sites and safeguard freedom of worship for everyone. We will continue to ensure that life continues to be conducted in Jerusalem in mutual respect and tolerance. And, ladies and gentlemen, we will continue to build in our capital, Jerusalem.
From Zion will come the Torah, and from Zion comes software: tradition and innovation, the roots of the past and the heights of the future.
This is Jerusalem, flooded with light, radiating hopes of innovation and progress for all its residents, and we will work to ensure that it happens.
Fifty years have passed since the great victory that made a laughingstock of those who belittled us. Two thousand five hundred years ago, Sanballat the Horonite, an enemy of Judea during the period of the Return to Zion, derisively asked, “Can they restore the stones out of the mounds of dirt, when they have been charred?” Over the generations and in our generation, we have answered this question decisively: Yes, we will restore the stones! We built a temple out of the dirt and the ash. Nehemiah built walls with these burnt stones. We used the longing and the yearning to bring about the resurrection of Zion. Even at our most difficult moments, we promised ourselves that we would return home, and here we stand in gratification and glory, in Jerusalem – our pride and joy, our people’s majesty, our eternal and united capital forever and ever.
Happy holiday, Jerusalem!