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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post)
Dancing and singing under a sea of blue and white flags, thousands of young people from across the country thronged the major thoroughfares of the capital on Wednesday afternoon as they took part in the 43rd Jerusalem Day “Flag Dance” Parade, which made its way from Sacher Park to the Western Wall Plaza.
Some 3,500 police and Border Police officers had deployed throughout various parts of the capital ahead of Wednesday’s celebrations “to prevent any and all attempts to disrupt the peace,” as Jerusalem Police had announced earlier Wednesday morning.
While no major disturbances were reported, at least one violent incident occurred when some 60 marchers on their way to the parade strayed from their route and accidentally ended up at the entrance to the Shuafat neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
According to police, the marchers were then confronted by a mob of Arab youths from the neighborhood who began throwing rocks at them. Fearing for their safety, one of the marchers fired his personal handgun in the air in an attempt to disperse the mob, before a Border Police unit arrived and escorted them to French Hill.
Also Wednesday, a group of left-wing activists in Sheikh Jarrah, who confronted marchers on their way to the parade, were ordered by police to leave the area. When they refused, police said, the activists were forcibly dispersed and two were arrested before quiet was restored to the area.
Beyond those incidents, however, the majority of Jerusalem Day events were held without any unusual occurrence. The intermittent pop of fireworks from nearby east Jerusalem neighborhoods could be heard as the revelers made their way into Damascus Gate, but no additional disturbances were reported, and police said they viewed the day “as a success.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was one of a number of political leaders who took to the Knesset speaker’s platform Wednesday afternoon to emphasize the importance of Jerusalem.
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In his speech, Netanyahu emphasized future plans for the capital. Jerusalem, said the prime minister, is a “big city, a vibrant city, not without problems. We tend to speak a lot, justifiably, of the need to reverse certain trends in this city because we see as more than just a concept.”
Netanyahu emphasized that he recognized that Jerusalem had housing “problems that we must address.” He said, however, that the key to improving Jerusalem would be in increasing employment opportunities, as the capital suffers from rising poverty levels.
“We must turn the economic engine around,” insisted Netanyahu. “Jerusalem must be much more than what it was even when we were young. It was a city of senior government officials, of doctors and academics. But it did not have the economic foundations that I believe we must build in order to ensure that these and other foundations will join to really ensure Jerusalem’s strength and staying power as the capital of Israel.”
But when Netanyahu turned the focus of his speech to the “special
relationship” between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, MK Taleb a-Sanaa
(UAL-Ta’al) took exception and chided the prime minister for what he
called “rewriting history.”
Sanaa was eventually removed from the Knesset floor after Speaker
Reuven Rivlin called him to order, saying that Sanaa had “come in so
that I would eject him.”
However, Netanyahu said, “none of this changes the simple fact that we
respect the connection of Christians and Muslims, whatever it may be,
to Jerusalem, and only under Israeli rule did this freedom of worship
and access to the holy sites come to be, and will it continue to exist.”