FULL TEXT: Speaker Ryan’s Remarks on the 50th Anniversary of Jerusalem Reunification

John Boehner

WASHINGTON—Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. Below are Speaker Ryan’s full remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, my friend Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Ambassador Dermer, distinguished guests, friends: I am so honored to be here with you on this historic anniversary.

“Our commitment to Israel dates back to President Harry Truman, who recognized the state within minutes of her declaring independence.

“It’s that legacy—one that’s been tried and tested over the years—that we are here to reaffirm today.

“50 years. Can you believe that? It’s pretty amazing. Some of us weren’t even born yet, isn’t that right, ambassador? The prime minister was just wrapping up high school.

“50 years ago this week, Jerusalem—the spiritual and religious capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years—was made whole again.

“But it came at a heavy cost: 776 Israeli soldiers lost their lives in the Six Day War.

“Brave men and women not much older than my kids fought to save Israel from imminent annihilation.

“That included a 32-year-old paratrooper reservist named Shimon Cahaner. Katcha, as his friends called him, led his unit into battle on Ammunition Hill at 2:30 in the morning on June 6, 1967.

“For six long hours they fought Jordanian troops in the trenches of Mount Scopus. Katcha made it out alive—24 soldiers in his battalion did not.

“But through their sacrifice, the IDF won the Battle of Ammunition Hill and, over the next few days, reunified Jerusalem.

“Katcha still returns to that site often. And on a visit a few years ago he said this: ‘Every day, I feel the honor that I had to be responsible for Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not the same as any other place.’

“And you know something? He’s right. There is something special about Jerusalem. I just returned there last summer on my first overseas trip as speaker.

“When you walk the stone streets of the Old City.

“When you place your hand on the Western Wall that encircled Solomon’s Temple.

“When you kneel before the tomb of Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

“When you celebrate mass at the Catholic altar mere feet away from the site of the cross at Calvary.

“When you actually walk the Stations of the Cross.

“You cannot explain it with words, but you feel it. It’s unlike any other place in the world.

“Only in Jerusalem do Judaism, Christianity, and Islam converge at the roots of their faith. And only in Jerusalem can followers of the three great monotheistic religions worship at some of their most holy sites safely and peacefully.

“Let’s not take that for granted. It wasn’t always like that. Jerusalem has been destroyed, rebuilt, captured, and recaptured from time immemorial. Thousands of people have died over thousands of years fighting for this city. But without Jerusalem, the Israel we know today would not exist.

“In December 1973, just a couple months after the Yom Kippur War, a 27-year-old IDF soldier scribbled a letter to his younger brother, Benjamin.

“He wrote, ‘I don’t intend to tell my grandchildren about the Jewish state in the twentieth century as a mere brief and transient episode in thousands of years of wandering. I intend to hold on here with all my might.’

“His name was Yonatan Netanyahu. Yoni didn’t live to have grandchildren—he died, as we all know, rescuing 102 hostages from Palestinian terrorists during the raid on Entebbe. But if he had, here’s what I think he would have told them:

“After thousands of years in exile, the Jewish people are finally back home. Home in the land of their ancestors. Home in the land so many have died fighting to defend. And home in their eternal, united capital of Jerusalem—never to be divided again.

“Thank you.”

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