Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the traditional Jerusalem Day rally in the capital's Mercaz Harav yeshiva on Tuesday and was greeted by thunderous applause.
Netanyahu expressed his commitment to the city and said, "We never gave up on the connection to Jerusalem – not when the Temple was destroyed for the first or second time and not afterwards."
Netanyahu began his speech by addressing yeshiva head Rabbi Yaakov Shapira and saluted him and his students for their devotion to the Jewish Torah, the Land of Israel and Israel's capital. "The struggle for Jerusalem is a struggle for the truth," he said. "We are building it, will continue to build it and to develop it."
In addressing the frenzied audience the prime minister noted, "You're here to give me strength? There's no need. I'm strong enough. I come from the same house you come from. I can give you strength."
Netanyahu added there were attempts to portray Israel as a foreign invader and said, "No other people are as connected to their capital as the Jewish people are to Jerusalem."
He nevertheless did not address construction in east Jerusalem or the city's unity in the future.
'Answers to threats are here'
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also attended the rally and referring to US pressure regarding construction he noted, "We find the answers to outside threats here inside. This is the reason the people's leaders come here on the eve of Jerusalem Day."
The mayor later commented directly on the demand for a construction freeze and said, "I told the Americans it was unthinkable and illegal to halt construction for Jews alone. I made it clear we would keep on building in all parts of the city." Barkat further claimed that the world was testing Israel's determination and the stronger and more cohesive its stance, "the easier it will be for us to promote the city."
Earlier in the rally Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin expressed his disappointment of the fact that "the joy of Jerusalem Day is slowly becoming that of very few – the religious and those who have seen Jerusalem divided and torn and still remember how they longed for its unity."
In addressing the yeshiva students Rivlin said that the city needs them now more than ever: "Jerusalem needs those who quite simply know that Jerusalem is tiny, that we cannot exist in Israel without it at its core, that Zionism cannot relinquish Zion which would leave it an empty shell."
The rally was attended by chief rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz and other Knesset members and public figures.