love for Jerusalem replaced by hatred for Arabs
Along the steep slope leading to the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, on the stone stairs, there is a crossroads.
To the right there is an alley that leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to the left there is a road through the Muslim Quarter, and from there to the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall.
The crossroads was the scene of a battle on Sunday, during the Jerusalem Day flag march.
Masses of religious boys, students of Zionist religious schools and institutions, marched towards the Damascus Gate, dressed in white.
A group of 30 young Palestinians were waiting for them on both sides of the street. “Am Yisrael Chai (The people of Israel live),” sang the young Jews as they marched with their heads and hands held high.
Some of the raised hands, however, turned into clenched fists and perturbed middle fingers, while some of the nationalist slogans turned into hate speech.
“Mohammed the pig”, “The Shem is the king” and “Shuafat will burn” – a reference to the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, from the Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem, by the Jews.
“Allahu Akbar,” the Palestinians shouted in response. The shouting turned into swearing and insults in Arabic and spitting at the Jewish marchers. Every few minutes a fight breaks out.
At 2 p.m., shop owners realized that nothing good would come of that day and began shutting down their businesses, one after another.
The shop owners begged the police to intervene, and when they realized their requests would yield no results, they took their merchandise inside and called him a day.
The large police presence prevented the loss of control. Every fight was extinguished within minutes.
The armed forces ran through the alleys, trying to catch their breath between clashes.
Jews and Arabs cursed the cops, while officers tried to chase everyone away and keep people flowing.
“Let’s see if they dare to come without the police,” the Palestinians said of right-wing Jews and expressed their anger at the racist and insulting slogans directed at them.
Along with police protection, Jewish groups relied on their numbers to protect them from harm. They walked in groups of ten or twenty at a time. Some of the boys are no older than 13 – barely teenagers.
Several wore tefillin, perhaps hoping that the religious garb would protect them from stabbing or spitting. “Revenge,” cried the youths as they marched down the Old City path.
Later, the far-right fan club of the Beitar football team, which is called La Familia, and members of the extreme Lehava movement came to parade through the alleys shouting “Death to the Arabs”.
Palestinian Red Crescent Society paramedics and other medical personnel wearing orange vests were scattered through the alleys, ready to treat injured Palestinians. MDA paramedics were also present, ready to treat the Jews. Each group having prepared its own emergency teams.
According to police data, more than 20,000 people visited the Western Wall on Sunday, most of them passed through Damascus Gate and a minority entered through Jaffa Gate.
While some came to incite riots, they were a minority among the mostly young crowd at the event. The others came to celebrate Jerusalem Day and send a message.
Jerusalem is the capital of my state and my nation. It is an important and fascinating city. He deserves a special day every year to honor him. It is a shame that some of our nation, the settlers and their supporters, have taken up this day and made it their own.
The participants were mostly made up of right-wing Zionist religious Jews. It is their right, no one can challenge it. But claiming ownership comes at a price.
As well as being a reason to celebrate, Jerusalem Day is a reason to inspire – to challenge the government for not being right-wing enough for their liking, and especially to oppose the presence of Arabs in Jerusalem and in the West Bank.
Hatred of Arabs replaced love of Jerusalem. And indeed, the Old City looked like an occupied city on Sunday – shops were closed, people in uniforms took to the streets and hatred was preached by all its inhabitants.
At an event in the mixed city of Lod earlier today, I saw buses full of young religious Jews from West Bank settlements who were driven there to take part in a similar flag march a just a year after race riots traumatized the city.
While this year’s events fared well compared to last year, the purpose of the march was clearly to provoke the Arabs, Jerusalem Day was just an excuse.
That same afternoon, the Ammunition Hill heritage site hosted an annual event for the IDF Paratroop Battalion which lost 30 of its soldiers in the battles for Jerusalem 55 years ago. I myself served in the same battalion
The oldest paratrooper veterans are approaching 80 years of age. None of them danced or celebrated on the hill, they commemorated fallen soldiers, the hardships of battles and the effort to honor human lives even in times of war.
A deep abyss stands between what happened at Ammunition Hill and the events at the Damascus Gate, a chasm that no dance or parade could bridge.