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Photo by: Melanie Lidman
15 arrested in clashes marring Jerusalem Day
By MELANIE LIDMAN
20/05/2012
50,000 people march to Western Wall to mark liberation of Old City, Temple Mount; Police arrest 5 Arabs, 10 Jews.
 
Fifteen people were arrested during clashes outside Damascus Gate during the annual Jerusalem Day Dance of Flags on Sunday, when 50,000 people marched through the streets of the capital toward the Western Wall.

The march commemorates the anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, when IDF soldiers liberated the Old City and the Temple Mount from Jordan’s Arab Legion.

Five Arabs were arrested for throwing objects at the marchers, and 10 Jews were arrested for chanting racist slogans.

Nevertheless, the day was calmer than last year, when the parade began in east Jerusalem and there were clashes along the length of the route. Last year, 24 people were arrested.

This year, the clashes were concentrated at Damascus Gate. Large groups of Orthodox boys chanted, “Death to Arabs!” and, “Revenge on Palestine!” while catcalling and applauding each time police removed an Arab demonstrator.

A small group of left-wing activists stood on the Arab side of the street with signs reading “Jerusalem Day, not my holiday.” Arabs shouted, “Allahu akbar!” and one woman waved a Koran.

Mounted police dispersed the protesters whenever one side became violent. The two sides of Sultan Suleiman Street were separated by a permanent steel fence meant to discourage jaywalking on the busy thoroughfare.

“When we deal with celebrations, we also have to deal with any tensions,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. “Every year there are tensions, but security assessments were made and we will separate between the sides.”



Most stores in the Damascus Gate area were closed after police sent letters to owners recommending they close at 4 p.m. to avoid confrontations with the marchers.

“This is nothing new, people are scared anyway and they don’t want anything to happen to their shops,” said Suheil, who lives inside the Old City next to Damascus Gate. “There’s a word here, a word there, and suddenly there’s a big problem.”

Other than in the Damascus Gate area, the parade proceeded without incident as thousands of people celebrated Jerusalem Day. As in previous years, men and women were separated as they danced to live bands and waved flags. The bands included a chorus of eight-year-old haredi (ultra-Orthodox) boys dressed as sailors singing the Brazilian hit “Melissa.”

Women entered the Old City through Jaffa Gate.

In the morning, three right-wing activists were arrested on the Temple Mount, after a group started praying there in honor of Jerusalem Day. National Union MKs Michael Ben- Ari and Uri Ariel joined the activists in the pilgrimage.

During a tour of the site, Ben-Ari and a number of the other activists started praying out loud. Police immediately asked Ben-Ari to stop. After a number of the people refused to stop, they were arrested. The rest of the tour continued as planned.

Due to status quo agreements, Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount during certain hours but are not allowed to openly pray.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, an activist and the spokesman for Ben-Ari, accused the police of incitement.

“Police are doing the work of the Wakf [Islamic trust],” he said.

“We came today to remind the entire world what Mota Gur [the commander of the division that liberated the Old City in 1967] said – ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands!’” Uriel said in a statement released by his office. “The site is under Israeli sovereignty and therefore the Israeli government must allow every Jew to realize his autonomous rights and to go up to pray on the Temple Mount.”
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