By Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ~
The following is a translation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech delivered at the ceremony marking the 45th Anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem held at Ammunition Hill on May 20, 2012.
Just days ago, I visited the Altneu Synagogue in Prague. Three months ago, I visited the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. These are two of the most remarkable synagogues in the world. One has been serving the Jewish community of the Czech Republic for nearly 800 years. The second has served the Jewish community of Holland for 350 years. One is Ashkenazi, the other Sepharadi. One is small and intimate. The other is large and magnificent.
But what connects them is what connects every synagogue around the world. When Jews pray in Prague or in Amsterdam, in New York or in Moscow, in Mexico City or in Hong Kong, in Haifa or in Beersheva, they face the same direction our people have faced for thousands of years. They face Jerusalem.
They face the place that has always been the center of our national and spiritual life, the place that reminds us of our glorious past and serves as the focus of our hopes for the future. We will not turn our backs on those who have faced Jerusalem for generations. We will preserve Jerusalem because an Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart. It was on this hill, 45 years ago, that the heart that unites our people began to beat again with full strength. And our heart will never be divided again.
There are people who believe that if we just divide Jerusalem — which means eventually conceding the Temple Mount – we will have peace. They are wrong. I am doubtful that if we grant other forces control over that square above the Temple Mount, we won’t see the situation deteriorate so quickly that it will devolve into a religious and sectarian war. I also know that this is the lesson of the ages – that only under Israeli rule, under Israeli sovereignty, access and freedom of worship for all religions has been and will continue to be ensured.
Only under Israel. Only under Israel will peace between the religions be maintained. Sustainable peace is made with strong nations, and an Israel without a unified Jerusalem will be like a body with a weak heart. And, a nation that is willing to sacrifice its heart will only convince its enemies that it lacks the willpower to fight for anything.
Forty-five years ago this place saw our people’s determination and the iron will of our fighters. They fought like lions in these trenches, against wave after wave of machine gun and heavy fire. They fought for Jerusalem and they won.
During that same fierce battle, 36 of our best men perished, and in all of Jerusalem, 182 IDF fighters died, and Jewish history changed forever. A city divided became
whole – and it will remain so.
Our generation has been granted a great privilege: we are witnesses to the fulfillment of the words of the prophets. We saw the resurrection of Zion; we saw the restoration of the sovereignty of the people of Israel here in the Land of Israel; we saw the ingathering of the exiles; and we saw the unification and rebuilding of Jerusalem. Our generation also bears the tremendous responsibility of ensuring that we safeguard this transformation for future generations.
The prophet Isaiah said: “Wake, wake! Arise, O Jerusalem.” Well, Jerusalem has arisen. After centuries of repression and intolerance by other faiths, Jerusalem has arisen and has been unified.
I remember the day when Motta Gur said that the Temple Mount was in our possession. Whose heart did not tremble? Who did not think then about David and Solomon, about Isaiah and Jeremiah, about the prophesies of hope and the lamentations of destruction? Who did not feel the prayer of generations that beats within us? I felt it and so did you.
And with this great power, we ushered in a transformation here that could not be imagined. What was less than a century ago a forgotten, impoverished and neglected backwater has now become a bustling, vibrant, developed and advanced metropolis, the greatest requisite of Israel – and the united capital of our nation.
Jerusalem is where our past has been uncovered and our future has been built; the place where our unparalleled spiritual treasures reside; a place of world-renowned universities and museums; a place where unprecedented numbers are studying our heritage and where the genius of our people is expanding the limits of science, medicine and technology.
For 45 years we have built and developed Jerusalem – north and south, east and west. We will continue to build Jerusalem — our capital — and we will continue to ensure that its golden light illuminates the future of our people and shines a light across the world – the light of Jerusalem.