May/June 2000

Barak: Jerusalem Will Never Be Divided

By Etgar Lefkovits

JERUSALEM (June 2) - Jerusalem will never again be divided, Prime Minister Ehud Barak vowed at a ceremony at Ammunition Hill last night marking Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the city's reunification in the Six Day War.

"Jerusalem combines the past, present, and future, from all the generations of the nation of Israel. Let us remove it from the points of contention that divide us, as it does not help our position in safeguarding the city," Barak said in his address at the event, which included a torch-lighting ceremony in memory of 183 soldiers who died in the 1967 battles for Jerusalem.

"Jerusalem shall forever remain ours because it is in our souls. Never again will Jerusalem be under foreign sovereignty. Only someone who has no sense of reality, who does not understand anything about Israel's yearning and longing and the Jewish people's historical connection to Jerusalem for over 3,000 years would even consider any making concessions over the city," he also said.

Others, however, expressed concern at the direction of the peace talks with the Palestinians, who continue to demand control over east Jerusalem.

"I cannot and do not want to ignore the dark clouds that are gathering upon us - on our beautiful blue skies which can be found nowhere in the world - on this Jerusalem Day, that threaten the sovereignty over our capital, Jerusalem" said Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.

Addressing Barak directly, Olmert urged him to safeguard the dreams that the Jewish people nurtured for thousands of years about Jerusalem.

"Very soon you will be faced with decisions that affect the fate of this city," Olmert said. "No decision that you have taken in your whole life was similar to the one you will be faced with. Everything you have done in your life... [was] but a preparation for this moment that is approaching, the moment where you will have to use all your intelligence, mixed with the memories dreams and longings of the Jewish people toward Jerusalem."

Earlier in the day, at a ceremony at Har Homa attended by Olmert and National Religious Party leaders, the neighborhood was officially renamed "Homat Shmuel," after Shmuel Meir, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem who was killed in a traffic accident in 1996.

Meir was one of the driving forces behind the building of the neighborhood.

Meir's widow, Ruthie, said the new name, which means "Shmuel's wall," was fitting, because "Shmuel was like a strong wall that was safeguarding Jerusalem."

"The struggle over Jerusalem is the struggle over one more house, one more neighborhood, one more tree, one more road, one more tunnel, one more bridge," Olmert said.

There was also a short period of tension in the city, when dozens of right-wing protesters demonstrating in front of Orient House clashed with Palestinians.

A shouting match and then scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and about 30 Palestinians until they were separated by police in riot gear. Former Kach activist Itamar Ben-Gvir was taken into custody, to the cheers of the Palestinians.

Soon after, about 40 members of the Temple Mount Faithful group marched passed Orient House, blowing ram's horns and waving Israeli flags.

As they marched past, a Palestinian stood on a nearby stone wall waving a large Palestinian flag, while others behind him chanted "God is Great."

Also ringing in Jerusalem Day were hundreds of teenagers from nationalist youth movements, who clogged the Old City, dancing and chanting slogans while Palestinian residents looked on.

"They think that if they come in and shout, it will scare the Arabs, but you see, the Palestinian flag keeps waving," said Hassam Rajbi, 27, a security guard. "Jerusalem Day is a sad day for us because they think they can keep the city united."

© Jerusalem Post

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