Mr. Speaker, the Holy City of Jerusalem is recognized as one of the oldest cities in the world. It is also the eternal capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Founded during the dawn of civilization, the city has been destroyed twice, captured and recaptured 44 times, and controlled by numerous great empires including the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans throughout its 6,000 year history. Throughout the centuries, Jerusalem has always been the spiritual capital of the Jewish people.
The Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem is clearly recorded in the Bible, with the city being mentioned by name 811 times. King David, the Biblical and historic King of Israel, made Jerusalem his capital in 1,000 BC. His son, Solomon, built the Holy Temple that was the center of the Jewish faith on Mount Moriah in the Old City of Jerusalem. After its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC, it was rebuilt years later only to again be destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE. Remnants of the ancient temple still remain with the Temple Mount and its outer wall, known as the Western Wall, serving as the holiest site in Judaism today.
When the Romans destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem, it expelled its Jewish inhabitants, forbidding them from settling in the rebuilt city. Meanwhile, Muslim and Christian armies battled for the city, erecting their own shrines over top of the Jewish ones. We cannot ignore the importance the Temple Mount also holds to Christians and Muslims, being the location where Jesus prayed. Nevertheless, Jerusalem has for far longer been the center of the Jewish world. The city remained in political turmoil for centuries until the rebirth of the State of Israel and its unification under the Jewish State.
In 1949, the Jewish people declared Jerusalem the capital of their new nation. As David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, stated: ‘‘there has always been and always will be one capital only—Jerusalem the eternal. Thus it was 3,000 years ago—and thus it will be, we believe, until the end of time.’’ The city has since flourished as the capital of Israel, being a place where all faiths can peacefully worship. While the future of the full city has yet to be decided, it cannot be denied that Jerusalem is the political, cultural, and spiritual center of Israel.
I applaud President Trump’s courageous decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to relocate the U.S. embassy to the city. It is the obvious decision reflecting our strong commitment to the State of Israel and the Jewish people’s historical ties to the land. The status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites should be maintain until a lasting peace agreement is decided on by the two sides.