The Knesset and US Congress jointly marked 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem on Wednesday night with a first-ever simultaneous broadcast from the two legislatures.
“Jerusalem will never be divided again,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told attendees, recalling a time before June 7, 1967 when he was a young teenager living in a “wounded, divided [Jerusalem] that had no future.”
On the Israel side, the event was held in the hall of the Knesset building in Jerusalem. Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein used the platform to call on the Trump Administration to recognize Jerusalem as the official and unquestioned capital of the State of Israel.
“Bring your embassy to our capital,” urged Edelstein.
Addressing Congress, he said the 50th anniversary of reunification is the “appropriate occasion to take these important, just and historic steps. I am sure other countries will follow your lead.”
Edelstein’s comments came days after the Senate on Monday unanimously passed a resolution commemorating the Jerusalem Jubilee. Co-sponsored by 17 senators, the text calls on the legislative body to recognize that “Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected” and validates that “there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem for three millennia.”
The event also came just weeks after US President Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall (Kotel) and on the same day that US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made her own pilgrimage to the holy site, where she received what was described as a “rock-star welcome.”
Around 100 VIPs were invited to attend the live event in Israel. Several hundred Americans were visible on the live stream, including business magnate Sheldon Adelson and William Daroff, senior vice president of public policy for the Jewish Federations of North America.
Netanyahu waxed sentimental as he recalled waking up on the morning of June 5 to “a resounding noise.” He climbed up on the roof of his family’s apartment in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot “and I could see bombs bursting on the ground, right behind us. Shells were being fired from Jordan and many, many shells fell on Jerusalem. Many were killed.”
But two days later, on June 7, Netanyahu was huddled in a bomb shelter when Lt. Gen. Mordechai “Motta” Gur was heard over the radio announcing the legendary words, “The Temple Mount is in our hands.”
“I remember a spontaneous flood of people … going through the alleys of the Old City, one after another, and then we reached the wall and we touched – I touched – those stones,” said Netanyahu. “I was touching the rock of ages and everything was coming from those stones through my finger to my soul: Abraham, David and Solomon, and our prophets, and the Maccabees, and the ages of dispersion and torment, and the ghettos of Toledo and Warsaw where Jews prayed ‘next year in Jerusalem’ – of salvation, of return, of redemption.”
“If Jews can overcome the worst travails of history, there is hope for humanity,” Netanyahu said.
Democratic and Republican governors from across the U.S. also addressed the event and congratulated Israel on the reunification of its capital.
Gov. Phil Bryant (Mississippi) said, “So goes Israel, so goes America” and called on leaders to ensure Jerusalem remains unified under Jewish control “for another 50 years, another 100, another 1,000 years, that Jerusalem stands as a beacon of hope to all the world.”
Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States, called the June 7, 1967 reunification a “modern-day miracle,” expressing pride that under Israel’s sovereignty “the sacred sites of Jews, Christians and Muslims are protected and people of all nations and faiths are free to walk Jerusalem streets and worship God.”
Paul Ryan, speaker of the United States House of Representatives, named Jerusalem “the spiritual and religious capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years” and the eternal capital of the Jewish people.
“After thousands of years in exile, the Jewish people are finally back home,” Ryan said.