Between 300,000 and 400,000 people gathered for a mass rally last night, January 8, opposing the division of Israel's capital. The theme of the rally was, "Jerusalem: I Pledge Allegiance." The huge crowds spilled over from Jaffa Gate all the way to the main Jaffa Rd. thoroughfare and into many of the adjoining roads. Traffic was diverted away from the area, and many thousands of people could be seen coming and going by foot in all directions throughout the event.
Throughout the rally, pictures and photographs of Jerusalem - such asthe City of David antiquities, the Temple Mount, and the liberation of the city in 1967 - were screened on the walls of the Old City near the Tower of David and Jaffa Gate. Speakers included Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Moshe Landau, Avital Sharansky (wife of Yisrael B'Aliyah Party head Natan Sharansky), Chairman of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Ron Lauder, paratroopers such as Rabbi Yisrael Ariel who participated in the capture of Jerusalem in 1967, left-wing Rishon LeTzion Mayor Meir Nitzan, and organizer Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.
Avital Sharansky: "The refusenik Sylva Zalmanson, during her trial in Soviet Russia, read aloud to the judges the verse, "If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither." My husband Natan, at the end of his trial there, when he was in genuine danger to his life, declared in unforgettable words, "Next year in Jerusalem." We always knew that the freedom of Israel and the freedom of Jerusalem are one and the same."
Mayor Olmert addressed some of his remarks directly to U.S. President Clinton: "We are an old people, and we never forget our friends - but we also do not forget those who raise their hand against our most precious treasures. Don't be the only U.S. President to go down in history as having proposed the division of Israel's eternal capital. Please, Mr. President, think about it."
Nurse Esther Arditi Bornshtein, known as the Angel in White: "I immigrated from Italy, and served for two years in the Israeli Air Force as a medic. During the Six Day War, when I was already a mother of two, I joined up with Mota Gur's paratroopers division that broke through the walls of the Old City. I administered first aid to the heroes who were hit by the massive firepower of the Jordanians. I am now a tour guide living in Jerusalem, "the joy of the whole earth, Mount Zion, the city of the great King." ...I stand here today at the walls of Jerusalem, and pledge allegiance to a complete and undivided Jerusalem - forever!"
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Moshe Landau: "The organizers of this rally acted correctly in ensuring that it would have no political flavor - because the dream of the integrity of all Jerusalem is something that all the Jewish parties in Israel have in common, without any difference at all. It is agreed upon by all those who understand the purpose of our presence here in this land, in this city, and especially the Temple Mount, which we have received as a precious
deposit from those who preceded us, and we are obligated to return them to those who come after us, complete and whole. The State of Israel does not belong only to those who reside here today, but is rather the country of all Jews, wherever they may be... [When I was in the U.S.] I was witness to the deep excitement felt by Jewish audiences when they heard the wonderful song by Naomi Shemer called "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" (Jerusalem of Gold). We pray that common sense and understanding will take root amongst them also, and then truly, true peace will reign here in United Jerusalem."
Yisrael Berko, a resident of the Old City: "I was born in the Old City 13 years ago, in the building called Beit Reut. I would like to say to all of you, in the name of my friends who live in Herod's Gate, in Damascus Gate, in Zion Gate, in Jaffa Gate, and all over the Old City: We are not from the 'Moslem Quarter' or the 'Jewish Quarter' - we are from Jerusalem-Between-the-Walls, the undivided and complete city of Jerusalem. No more quarters and sections - only Jerusalem, that will has always been and will always be the pinnacle of the Jewish longing and striving, the heart and center, of the entire Jewish nation!"
The entire crowd, led by radio personality and linguist Avshalom Kor, declared aloud and together the verses from Psalms, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. Let my tongue cling to my palate if I do not remember thee."
Journalist Aryeh Bender of Ma'ariv wrote this morning, "This stand, one of the largest in the history of Israel, was impressive, unique, and moving. There was a feeling of exaltation in the crowd... The rally gave them a pick-up."
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