President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday opened the 50th annual celebrations of Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s reunification of the holy city in the 1967 Six Day War, saying that the country will always “insist” that Jerusalem is its capital.
“We will always insist on Jerusalem. There never has been, there will never be any other reality. Here, in these stones, beats the heart of the Jewish People,” the president said at the official ceremony at the Western Wall in the Old City.
“Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel, and the Kotel (Wall) is the heart of Jerusalem,” said Rivlin, whose family has lived in Jerusalem since 1809.
“We gave our all for Jerusalem because we knew that on Jerusalem we must insist,” he said at the ceremony marking the capture of East Jerusalem and the Old City.
Despite five decades passing, much of the international community still does not recognize it as Israel’s capital, saying the issue must be solved in peace talks with Palestinian who also claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state.
This was highlighted by the visit on Monday and Tuesday by US President Donald Trump, who made the first visit the the Western Wall by a sitting president, but still insisted the outing was private. He also did not acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or announce the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as many in Israel had hoped.
However, the US president stressed the Jewish people’s millenia-long ties to Israel’s capital in a speech on Tuesday at the Israel Museum.
Also speaking at the ceremony was IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, who addressed the crowd of veterans from the brigades that fought in Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and “returned to the Jewish people their eternal capital.”
“You remember the great joy and the feeling of pride in your victory, and ache for the price in blood that you paid in difficult battles,” he said.
In his remarks, Eisenkot also said that while the Middle East has changed dramatically over the past five decades, the IDF’s “commitment, dedication and responsibility” have not changed.
“Five decades have passed since the Six Day War. The Middle East has changed its face and the threats are spreading and changing shape. The IDF is getting stronger and is adapting itself to the challenges of the future. But one thing hasn’t changed: the commitment, dedication and responsibility of the Israeli warrior,” he said.
“From generation to generation, we continue the heritage, the courage of spirit and the fighting spirit of the soldiers of the Six Day War.”
While Jerusalem Day officially began Tuesday evening, celebrations for the 50 anniversary of the city’s kicked off on Sunday with a series of speeches by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials, as well as a sound and light show projected onto the 16th century stone walls of the Old City.
Although the importance of Jerusalem Day is widely touted by Israeli lawmakers, the holiday is not celebrated by a large segment of the Israeli public.
The holiday is widely known for the “flag dance,” in which primarily religious teenagers march through the city decked in white and blue.
The march has been marred by violence and racist chants against Arabs in recent years and police warned Tuesday that they will have “no tolerance for physical or verbal violence.”