By President Reuven Rivlin
To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War in June, BICOM and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have launched 50 Voices, 50 Years, an exciting new collection of 50 diverse voices featuring contributions that reflect on the implications of this anniversary, its legacy for Israel and the Middle East, its meaning for Zionism and the Jewish state’s prospects for peace. Below is the contribution is based on an address by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on 23 May.
Fifty years ago, I was a Reserve Intelligence Officer in the Jerusalem Brigade. I remember so clearly, I was in an army Jeep travelling between Bethlehem and Hebron, when I heard over the two way radio, the voices of my fellow soldiers. We could hardly believe it, “The Temple Mount is in our hands”. I can never forget this. We all felt the history – and the future – of Israel, of the Jewish people – rested on our shoulders. And with that, a great joy filled us all, across the city, across the world. We had returned home: to Jerusalem, to Yerushalayim.
We gave our all for Jerusalem because we knew that on Jerusalem we must insist. We will always insist on Jerusalem. There never has been, there never be any other reality. Here, in these stones, beats the heart of the Jewish People. Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel, and the Kotel is the heart of Jerusalem.
On the day of Jerusalem’s liberation, then Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, wrote a note, and slotted it in between the stones of the Kotel: “May peace be upon Israel.” Today too, we continue to carry that prayer. May God give, and bring peace over Israel. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her”.
And now, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary. Any marriage that lasts 50 years needs hard work to keep the love strong. Yes, Jerusalem is of gold, but is also city of knowledge and education. Jerusalem is the seat of government, and a city of culture and innovation. Jerusalem, is diverse. The city of Jerusalem – that was once a divided city – is the same city where Jews and Arabs, religious and secular people, find the space to live together, to meet and get to know each other; to build a shared Jerusalem, together.
For 50 years, Jerusalem has been ours, but we have not let her rest. Some want to divide her, some want to see her grow, some want to see her shrink. The city is pulled and pushed, and argued about, here, and all over the world.
As we mark the half a century since the city was reunited, I believe the time has come to bring peace to Jerusalem. To grow within her an Israeli hope, a hope for Jerusalem: the city which welcomes pilgrims from all communities, from all over the world. This is our duty now more than ever. To work to develop and preserve our city.
I ask you all, to take from the strength of Jerusalem, from the history of Jerusalem from the beauty of Jerusalem, so that we will know how to build our futures together. It is not enough that the city is united, if its people are still divided.”
L’shana Haba’a B’Yerushalayim, Shalom from Jerusalem.
Reuven Rivlin is the President of Israel. You can read the other entries in the 50 voices, 50 years project here.