JERUSALEM, Israel - At Thursday's Jerusalem Day ceremonies, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, fresh from his visit to Washington, vowed that the capital of the Jewish nation would never again be divided.
"I stand here today…saying what I said in my visit to the U.S.: Jerusalem always has been and always will be ours. It will never again be partitioned or divided," the prime minister said.
"Only Israeli sovereignty over the city will ensure the freedom of religion for the three faiths, and it is the only thing that can guarantee all minorities and congregations can continue living in it," Netanyahu said.
The annual ceremony, broadcast live on Israeli television, was held on Ammunition Hill, the site of a horrendous battle during the 1967 Six Day War.
At the start of the hour-long event, the nation's flag was lowered to half mast and a father who lost a son in the war prayed the Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning.
In his address marking the anniversary of the reunification of the city 42 years ago on June 7, 1967, President Shimon Peres said Jerusalem has been the only capital the Jewish people have known throughout history.
"Jerusalem's greatness does not stem from its geography, but rather its history," Peres said. "No other city in the world has created such an abundance of spiritual and political history," he said.
"Jerusalem is held sacred by half of mankind," he said, [but] it has been and always will be Israel's capital. We never had another and it has never been the capital of any other people," he said.
To those mourning the loss of loved ones in the Six Day War, the president said, "I know how deep your pain runs. It is inconsolable," he said.
"But here, on this formidable hill, we have to look around and say the achievement is as great as the pain. The men who have fallen here saved the most precious thing in our history. They saved Jerusalem," Peres said.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the Jewish people must stand together.
"With the world examining us, let it be said here: We will never divide Jerusalem," Barkat said.
While tens of thousands of flag-waving Israelis marched to the Old City's Kotel (Western Wall) to mark the Jerusalem's reunification under Jewish sovereignty, Arab protesters in east Jerusalem demonstrated against "the myth of the city's unity."
"We tell the whole world today that al-Quds (the name Arabs substitute for Jerusalem) is ours and not the racists'," Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atalla Hanna told the demonstrators.
Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post