The United States Congress held a special commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, with a live television link to a similar ceremony at the Israeli Knesset.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer were the featured guests in Washington, DC, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman attended the Knesset ceremony.
There were also live video links with audiences in all 50 U.S. states, where supporters of Israel had gathered to watch, and to participate in, the commemoration. Various state capitols also participated in the event.
“Americans have come together to celebrate Jerusalem, the eternal shining city on a hill,” Dermer said in his opening remarks.
Jerusalem had been divided after Jordanian forces occupied the eastern part of the city, including the Old City, during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. The Jordanians expelled Jews from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and destroyed it.
In the Six-Day War in 1967, Jordan joined Egypt and Syria against Israel. Israel responded to Jordanian shelling by opening an offensive in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), and attacking Jordanian forces in Jerusalem.
On June 7, 1967 (28 Iyar on the Hebrew calendar), Israeli forces conquered the city and liberated it, reunifying the city under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in nearly two millennia.
In his own speech, Speaker Edelstein noted that the Western Wall whose stones President Donald Trump had touched on his recent visit were freed from occupation fifty years ago by Israeli paratroopers.
“Recognize Jerusalem as the official and unquestioned capital of Israel,” Edelstein continued, addressing his remarks to the American audience. “Bring your embassy to our capital … I am sure other countries will follow your lead.”
Speaker Ryan recalled the story of the fight for Jerusalem, and the sacrifices of the Israeli soldiers to liberate the city.
And, finally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the experience of growing up in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot, which at the time was near the barbed wire and snipers of the Jordanian border. “It was a wounded, divided city that had not future.”
He recalled the shelling of the war, and the “spontaneous flood of people” who had entered through a breach in the border to reach the Western Wall after it had been freed. He said that he felt the entirety of Jewish history flowing through that wall as he touched it for the first time. “We united the city. We felt an elation that … was millennial.”
He stressed that Israel had ensured Jerusalem was “a free city for all” religions.
The U.S. Army brass quintet performed “Jerusalem of Gold,” a song written by Naomi Shemer before the 1967 war (performed here by Ofra Haza), whose last two verses were added after Jerusalem’s liberation to celebrate the return to the Old City.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.