Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke during Tuesday’s Jerusalem Day celebration at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. As he entered the Beit Medrash, over a thousand students sang the words with which Moses blessed the tribe of Binyamin: "And to Binyamin he said: Beloved by God, he will dwell in security."
The head of the yeshiva, Rav Yaakov Shapira, welcomed the Prime Minister with warm words for his forthright speech in the US Congress, adding that our "roadmap" is the Bible and that all of the land of Israel stems from Jerusalem and has the same indivisible status as the hoy city.
Netanyahu started by recalling how the government ministers sit during their meetings and browse through letters and other reports. He noted, however, that one minister browses through the Tanach and sometimes the Talmud. That minister, said Netanyahu, is Justice Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman, who was sitting on the dais to the right of him.
“For Ne’eman, public service is holy work,” said Netanyahu, “and as such, from time to time he shares with me something new that he’s found. So I’m happy to be here with him and many other great people such as the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Lau, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and Rabbi Ya’akov Shapira who heads the Mercaz Harav yeshiva.”
Addressing Rabbi Shapira directly, Netanyahu said: “I just heard the song ‘Od Avinu Chai’ (our Father still lives, sung by the students as the PM took his seat). Your father still lives, too. I remember the great Rabbi Shapira, and he still lives in you, in your spirit, in the spirit of all the great rabbis, but above all, he lives in the spirit of all of you students of Mercaz Harav.”
Netanyahu thanked those present for their support during his visit to the United States last week.
“When I was overseas, I received all your blessings and support,” he said. “You wanted to strengthen me and you did it, because during that entire week I kept remembering one verse: ‘Chazak Chazak v’Nitchazek.’ (Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened). May we strengthen one another. We need that strength every day of the year. We’re undergoing a great struggle but we also have some great achievements. 44 years ago, Israel’s soldiers fulfilled the vision of the prophets and brought back Jerusalem to its proper place.
“My friends, almost 2,000 years have passed since the destruction,” continued Netanyahu. “And today Jerusalem is beautiful and is a pride to the entire country. We came back to Jerusalem as builders, and today Jerusalem is growing and flourishing. We need to continue and build and develop the city. We see how the citizens of Jerusalem walk in it proudly. Jerusalem has once again become the capital of the Jewish people. Jerusalem is built, it is joined and unified forever,” he ended paraphrasing Psalm 132. The Prime Minister did not repeat his words to the Congress about finding creative ways to keep the city united and satisfy the Palestinians.
He recalled the government meeting this week, which took place at Migdal David in honor of Jerusalem Day. “Before the meeting I went down to the basement and saw a model of the city from the middle of the 19th century. In the model you see the synagogue standing upright, and then you see another synagogue. And you see the Jewish Quarter. We know that we were turned away from the city, but we came back and rebuilt. The synagogue now stands, complete, just like in its glory days.”
Netanyahu directly addressed the students of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, telling them, “There is nothing more dear to you than the Torah, the people of Israel and the land of Israel, at the heart of which is its capital Jerusalem…There are a few here who were or will be in the sayeret (military commando unit) in the IDF, and just like the sayeret goes in front of the camp, so do you go in front of the camp to light its way.”
He then offered the students some advice. “Always keep in touch with the camp. A pioneer with no camp behind him becomes lost in the desert, but if he has a camp connected to him he becomes part of a great force. All of you – rabbis, avreichim, and students – you stay connected and I’m sure you’ll continue to stay connected to the entire people. Jerusalem can continue to develop only if the people of Israel continue to develop. And the people of Israel will develop only through unity. There’s great strength in unity.”
The Prime Minister ended with a blessing, perhaps a hint of no building freezes, in honor of Jerusalem Day.
“There’s nothing more holy to us than Jerusalem,” he said. “We’ll keep Jerusalem, we’ll keep its unity, we’ll build it. We’ll protect Jerusalem and Jerusalem will protect us. I say to you not just Chag Sameach, but L’Shana Haba’a BiYerushalyim Habenuya Yoter (Next year in Jerusalem which is built even more)!”