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Israelis Celebrate Jerusalem Day


Israelis are celebrating Jerusalem Day, an annual holiday aimed at strengthening Jewish claims over the city at the heart of the Mideast conflict.

Thousands of Israelis marched through the streets of Jerusalem, celebrating the 39th anniversary of the reunification of the city during the Six Day War in 1967. They waved national flags, as they marched to the Western Wall in the disputed Old City, the last remnant of the biblical Temple.

The Palestinians want the Old City and the rest of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, but the message of Jerusalem Day is that the city is Jewish.

"Well, we have to show that Jerusalem really belongs to Israel, and that it is the heart and soul of the Jewish people here," said Yaakov Friedman, who immigrated to Israel from New York 12 years ago. "Every year, we say, you know, at Passover time, 'Next year, we should be in Jerusalem. Oh, here we are,' you know, praying and hoping that Jerusalem stays united,"

Jerusalem remains one of the most intractable issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel says it will never relinquish the Temple Mount and Western Wall, the holiest places in Judaism.

But the mount is also home to the Mosque of al Aksa, the third holiest place in Islam. Palestinians say there will never be peace until Israel withdraws and the Old City returns to Muslim control.

At a Jerusalem Day ceremony on a Six Day War battlefield, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made it clear that is not going to happen.

"Jerusalem was born Jewish," Mr. Olmert said, and, today, more than ever, he said, it is Jewish, complete and united.