Sitting at the yeshiva dais were former Chief Rabbi and Yeshiva Dean Rabbi Avraham Shapira, Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed of Beit El, Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba, former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, MKs Benny Elon, Uri Ariel, and Nissan Slomiansky, and others.
Both Rabbis Lior and Melamed emphasized the importance of soldiers' refusal to adhere to military orders that negate the Torah, such as dismantling Jewish communities in the Land of Israel. "We don't call this refusal," Rabbi Lior said, "but rather simply not cooperating with something that is opposed to our holy Torah... Some rabbis with short or long beards get up and dare to rule in opposition to the Torah giant [Rabbi Shapira]. For this reason, students, you must know that there is only one ruling that obligates all of us, and that is the ruling of our teacher and rabbi Rabbi Avraham Shapira, forbidding anyone from taking part in expulsion or destruction of communities."
Earlier in the day, thousands of youngsters and others marched in the now-traditional Rikudgalim Flag Dance March, from downtown Jerusalem to the Western Wall. Roads in the capital were closed as the marchers advanced towards the Old City. Later in the evening, three giant laser beams lit up the Jerusalem skies with images of the word Peace, a lion [the symbol of Jerusalem], a dove, the number 39 and more. The show was visible all over the city.
Thousands of policemen protected the festivities, after Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franco had publicly called on the public to celebrate the holiday in the capital. On the same day (Wednesday), however, he appeared in the Supreme Court to defend his decision not to allow the Temple Loyalists to visit the Temple Mount. He said that the site is "extra sensitive," and that the Moslems would be likely to respond with violence to any perceived Jewish intention to visit the Mount en-masse.
Gershon Solomon, head of the Loyalists, who has not been permitted to visit the Temple Mount for 15 years, said, "39 years ago, the IDF's Gen. Mota Gur declared, 'The Temple Mount is in our hands!' Now, the Moslems are the ones who can say that."
President Moshe Katzav said yesterday, "Jerusalem is the Jewish people’s 'genetic code,' and continues to be an inspiration for all Jews in Israel and the Diaspora." Katzav urged world Jewry to preserve the capital’s Jewish majority by making Aliyah [immigration to Israel] and coming to live in the holy city. A report issued this week indicates that Jerusalem's Jewish population has dropped from 74% in 1967 to 66% in 2006.