'Israel is a model for religious pluralism'

Congressman Eliot Engel speaks about 50th anniversary since reunification of Jerusalem, says Israel can teach the region about tolerance.

Chana Roberts,

Congressman Eliot Engel (right)
Congressman Eliot Engel (right)
Eliran Baruch

Speaking at the US Capitol at a special event marking the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem's liberation and unification, Sen. Eliot Engel (D-NY) took a jab at the Trump administration and said "it doesn't take a national expert to know that the Kotel is in Israel."

Engel was flanked by Martin Oliner, President of the Center for Unity and of Religious Zionists of America. This is the text of his speech:

It's great to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. You know… it's really funny, when I was younger, I would read about anniversaries and it was all in the history books. Now I read about and I remember when they happened. So I remember 50 years ago. I remember how proud we all were, how happy we all were.

And for 50 years, Jerusalem has remained the undivided eternal capital of Israel, and that's the way it should be and will be.

Now, for 50 years, Israel has taken control of Jerusalem. But for 50 years, Christians and Muslims have been able to visit their holy sites. Jews could not visit holy sites before 1967.

When I get to Israel on official travel, I always set aside an hour or so to visit the Kotel, the Western Wall. And it doesn't take a national expert to know, by the way, that the Kotel is in Israel. It is the holiest site in Judaism, and it always makes me feel closer to the Jewish people, Israel, to G-d – to Hashem – when I go there.

I go there and I wrap tefillin, I pray at the wall, I take in the smells, the sights. The comfort of being in the spiritual center of Judaism. And I'm proud of how the Jewish state allows access to all holy sites, as Jerusalem means something to three religions.

In this sense, Israel is a model for religious pluralism and has much to teach the rest of the region. I always say that my record in Congress is second to none when it comes to reaffirming the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and second to none when it involves making sure that support for Israel is bipartisan. And support for Israel is bipartisan, and that's the way it should be.

I know that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, because when I visit the prime minister, the Supreme Court, the Knesset, the essential institutions of Israel democracy, will be in Jerusalem. And I fought for Israel to be listed as the place of birth in American passports of children who born in Jerusalem. It's a disgrace that it hasn't happened yet.

And I voted numerous times to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and that should happen now, with the visit of President Trump, let's hope that happens.

So the US-Israel relationship must remain strong and bipartisan. I'm proud to be here with Democrats and Republicans alike to show our support today. And I always say this, I've been saying this for years. Presidents come and go, prime ministers come and go, members of Knesset come and go and even members of Congress come and go, but I don't want to go so quickly.

But the bipartisan nature of the US-Israel relationship is here to stay. I want to make sure that the relationship between the two countries is so strong, that it doesn't matter who is president or prime minister, or who serves in what office, we want the United States and Israel to continue to be the strongest of allies.

Let me again say – thank you for gathering here today to make sure Congress bears witness to this monumental anniversary. Your passion helps to inform our decision-making and I welcome the opportunity to be with you today. Thank you for your activism, Am Yisrael Chai.