netanyahu speaks jerusalem day 248 88.
(photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed Thursday never to divide Jerusalem, and pledged to keep the capital united under Israeli sovereignty.
"Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided," Netanyahu said at the official state ceremony marking Jerusalem Day and the reunification of the capital during the Six Day War 42 years ago.
"Only under Israeli sovereignty will united Jerusalem ensure the freedom of religion and freedom of access for the three religions to the holy places," he added.
The prime minister prefaced his remarks with a reference to his meetings with US President Barack Obama and other American officials earlier in the week, saying he had made the same declarations during that trip.
In an earlier address, President Shimon Peres said that Jerusalem, while sacred to others, is the only capital Israel and the Jewish people have ever known.
"Jerusalem is held sacred by half of mankind [but] it has been and always will be Israel's capital. We never had another and it has never been the capital of any other people."
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat lauded Netanyahu for his opposition to divide Jerusalem.
"With the world examining us let it be said here: We will never divide Jerusalem," Barkat said.
The august annual ceremony, which was broadcast live on some Israeli television and radio stations, took place at Ammunition Hill, site of one of the bloodiest battles in the city during the 1967 war.
The hour-long event, which was open to the public and bereaved family members, began on a temperate spring evening under a crystalline blue sky with the lowering of the Israeli flag to half mast, and the recital of kaddish by a bereaved father.
The ceremony, which included several musical interludes, and the laying of memorial wreaths, concluded with the singing of Israel's national anthem, Hatikva.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of flag-waving Israelis marched to the Western Wall on Thursday in commemoration of the reunification of the capital 42 years ago in the Six Day War.
Hundreds of east Jerusalem Arabs protested the celebrations in the capital on Thursday. Demonstrators carrying flags of the Palestinian Authority shouted slogans condemning the Jewish occupation, as they call it, of the eastern part of the city and the treatment of Israel towards Jerusalem's Arabs.
Participants lambasted "the myth of the city's unity" and said Israel must "awaken from the fantasy of unity" of the capital. They said bringing east Jerusalem under Israel rule in the wake of the Six Day War was illegal and illegitimate. "Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is an Arab city and the steps taken by the occupier in [managing] the city are illegal," they said.
Archbishop Atalla Hanna, one of the heads of the Greek Orthodox Church in east Jerusalem, said during his speech in the protest: "We tell the whole world today that Al-Quds is ours and not the racists'. To whomever wants to hear we say we are tied to Al-Quds in regard to our faith, history, culture and values. This is our city, our capital, we are not strangers and not passers-by here."
"We own houses in the city, own lands here and in the holy places," Hanna added. "If Israel thinks a new Palestinian house in Al-Quds is illegal and should therefore be destroyed, we say the presence of the occupation is illegal and therefore it should pull back."
Some 270,000 Arabs live in Jerusalem, and make up 35 percent of the city's residents.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.