JERUSALEM, Israel – Ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's Monday arrival, Israelis kicked off the 50th anniversary celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem Sunday evening, with the Old City Walls providing a backdrop.
Wednesday marks Israel's annual Jerusalem Day, with the golden anniversary making it even more special this year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin both addressed the crowd of thousands gathered for the event.
With an unspoken reference to Jordan's 19-year occupation of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (1948 to 1967), Netanyahu told participants, "Fifty years ago we returned to the heart of our capital and our land. Fifty years ago we did not conquer, we liberated."
Citing the bravery of Israel's soldiers and the love of the people that brought the reunification of Jerusalem, Netanyahu said today he says "…to the world, with a loud and clear voice, Jerusalem was and always will be the capital of Israel.
"The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will always remain under Israeli sovereignty," he said. "We will continue to build Jerusalem, our capital…our eternal capital forever."
President Rivlin said, "Jerusalem is not the problem; Jerusalem is the solution."
A lavish sound and light show projected on the Old City's walls and performances by some of Israel's most beloved entertainers followed. "Jerusalem of Gold" was the highlight. Some call Jerusalem of Gold Israel's unofficial national anthem.
Earlier in the day, Arutz Sheva hosted a dinner event at Jerusalem's Leonardo Plaza Hotel attended by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Israeli ministers, Knesset members, honorary guest former Gov. Mike Huckabee and newly installed U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, among others. The event was live streamed.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told the guests Jewish hearts "began to beat again" when Jerusalem came back under Israeli sovereignty.
"Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people and in the Six-Day War the heart began to beat once again in the Land of Israel," she said. That love between the Jewish people and Jerusalem goes back a long way.
"How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy." (Psalm 137:4-6)
Hotovely also addressed Israel's biblical heartland, Judea and Samaria, saying "…It is no less important to see a renewal of construction in Judea and Samaria after years of stagnation under the previous administration."
"The Trump administration is the first U.S. administration to emphasize that settlements are not an obstacle to peace," she continued. "It is important, therefore, that we proceed with construction. Kindergartens, schools and homes of Jewish families are not preventing peace. On the contrary, they represent the renewal of life in the Land of Israel."
Despite media reports to the contrary, most Israelis are waiting to see if Trump will make good on his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.