Netanyahu at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva
Netanyahu at the Mercaz Harav YeshivaHadas Parush/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed on Wednesday to keep Jerusalem united, as he spoke at Jerusalem Day celebrations at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, the annual central festive event that goes back to the first year of Jerusalem's reunification.

Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Shapira welcomed the Prime Minister warmly and spoke of how Judea and Samaria as well as a united Jerusalem are the results of the Six Day War, presenting him with a plaque on which is engraved Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook's words about the Western Wall: 'There are people with stony hearts but there are stones that have human hearts.' The prime minister recalled his grandfather's deep connection to first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Kook, founder of the yeshiva..

“I have a deep obligation to continue to maintain a united Jerusalem, to protect the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and all the holy sites of Israel. Jerusalem will not return to being Aelia Capitolina, and Jerusalem will not go back to being a divided city like it was after 1948," Netanyahu said.

“I hear people describe what happened to us [in the Six Day War] as a disaster. But that was our salvation, that was our redemption. We all felt that way then and I feel the same way today.We did not conquer Jerusalem, we liberated Jerusalem.”

“Is there anybody who wants us to go back in time? What would we go back to? A divided city? With ISIS on the Temple Mount? The northern branch of the Islamic Movement was there (in Jerusalem), have you heard of them? We outlawed them. They warned us not do it but we outlawed them anyway and nothing bad has happened.”

Netanyahu added, “They want us to turn this small square kilometer into what we see in Palmyra or Aleppo or Mosul, and that's what will happen [if we divide Jerusalem]. Only under Israeli sovereignty is there freedom for all religions, and we will not give up the Temple Mount or the Western Wall and will not divide the city.”

The people of Israel, the Prime Minister stressed, “are not a nation of refugees. This is our homeland and we have the first right to it.”

“This fundamental truth stands before my eyes when I stand firmly and resolutely against elements in the world who seek to deny our sovereignty in Jerusalem and seek to return us to indefensible borders, and I never forget where we came from and where we are headed, and I am not talking only about Jerusalem, but about our entire homeland, the Land of Israel.”

As the deafening applause his words received died down, he continued:

“I say to the world - the people of Israel have returned home to their land. We are clinging to our land and our capital Jerusalem, we will deepen our roots and continue to send branches upwards...There is no existence for the Jewish people without the State of Israel in the Land of Israel and this is what I am entrusted with as Prime Minister, and with the help of God and with your help I do not forget that even for a fraction of a second,” said Netanyahu.

“The world of Torah is flourishing and the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva is one of the flagships that lead it proudly. We will continue to strengthen the capital of Israel, and add a measure of beauty and depth to strengthen its soul. Happy holiday to you my friends, and blessings from Zion to the lovers of Jerusalem in Israel and abroad.”

The event was attended by Chief Rabbi David Lau, Jerusalem's Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Ramat Gan's Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Minister Ze'ev Elkin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Malcolm Hoenlein who heads the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, MKs and other well know rabbis. Sara Netanyahu, CultureMinister Miri Regev and MK Shuli Mualem were received warmly in the women's section of the yeshiva hall. Famed hassidic singer Avraham Fried was joined by the hundreds of yeshiva students and guests as the hall reverberated with song.