Despite violent and deadly protests, the United States opened its new and relocated embassy in Jerusalem on Monday.
President Donald Trump delivered some hopeful — if not historical — remarks in a video that played during the ceremony, saying the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv was “a long time coming.”
“Congratulations, it’s been a long time coming,” Trump said. “Almost immediately after declaring statehood in 1948, Israel designated the city of Jerusalem as its capital. The capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. So important.
“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine its own capital, but for many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious,” Trump said of the reluctance of previous administrations to move the embassy to Jerusalem. “This city and this entire nation is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.”
The dedication of the new embassy was attended by U.S. officials such as Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Ivanka Trump and White House adviser Jared Kushner, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We extend a hand in friendship to Israel, to Palestinians and to all of their neighbors,” Trump said. “May there be peace. May God bless this embassy.”
“May God bless all who serve there, and may God bless the United States of America,” he added.
Though the president expressed high hopes for peace throughout the region, a massive protest from local Palestinians took place just outside city limits, with deadly force being used by Israeli authorities.
According to the BBC, Israel said the protests, which involved more than 40,000 Palestinians in 13 different locations over the past several Fridays, are an attempt to breach the border and attack Israeli communities.
The weekly protests have been in the name of “March of Return,” which began March 30 with “Land Day” and marks the expropriation in 1976 of Arab land by Israeli forces.
The “March of Return” ends Tuesday with “Nakba Day,” which remembers the displacement of Palestinians from their homes after Israel earned its statehood.
The ceremony Monday has only exacerbated the Hamas-led protests, where burning tires and Molotov cocktails were hurled in the general direction of Israeli forces.
By Monday, at least 41 protestors had been killed with more than 750 injured.
Those protesting have said they want to draw the world’s attention to what they deem is their right to return home, before their “ancestral” land became the State of Israel.
“Today is the big day,” said Ali, a protester who declined to give his last name. “When we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever.”
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