Ray Schrire remembers the Jerusalem Day of his a childhood as a happy annual tradition – a far cry from how he views the day he has come to know in recent years.
“It wasn’t always for me connected to a political cause,” Schrire, a 26-year-old student of history and philosophy at the Hebrew University, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “I guess I grew older and started to see the political instruments that are involved in this day.”
Schrire would be taking part in a solidarity protest later that evening, in which a smattering of Israelis united with Palestinians at the Old City’s Damascus Gate in opposition to Jerusalem Day.
They oppose the Jerusalem Day celebrations saying that Jerusalem is not a united city, and instead the holiday only serves to satisfy young “settlers” and incite “racist harassment and violence against Palestinian inhabitants,” according to the Gush Shalom organization.
In the past few years, Schrire said, the holiday has become a day of “celebrating the occupation of east Jerusalem.”
“That by itself would be okay – people are allowed to celebrate what they want,” he continued.
“But the way it’s being celebrated is in such a violent way.
While in 1967, the army secured east Jerusalem, this does not give Jews the right to act violently against other Jerusalem residents, Schrire said.
“As an Israeli, as a Jew and as a Jerusalemite, I cannot tolerate the fact that my group of people are acting in such a way on any day,” he said.
Before the rally, Schrire said he hoped that the protest would go as peacefully as possible and stressed that people should not be “dancing through east Jerusalem” and “doing a whole pogrom” to begin with.
“I cannot see my people doing what has been done to us,” he said, pointing to the march that went through the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in 2011. “Last year, in my experience it was such a violent day.
“It has nothing to do with the Six Day War to go around bashing windows and cars,” Schrire added. (This year’s Jerusalem Day march was confined to west Jerusalem.) At the protest itself on Sunday evening, there were only a few Gush Shalom representatives, holding signs among many Palestinians.
One Arab woman, Amal, 24, told the Post that being part of such a protest is something she must do in order to help prove that Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians.
“I’m here to say that Jerusalem is an Arab city and there is nothing called the unification of Jerusalem,” she said. “I’m here because we are supposed to be here, we’re not supposed to close our shops.”
Amal explained that she and her friends – one of who stood next to her in a T-shirt bearing a Google search for “Israel,” with the result, “Did you mean Palestine?” – are against any sort of cooperation with Israelis, even with representatives of organizations such as Gush Shalom.
By participating in such a rally, change is unlikely to occur in the short-term because of the small number of Palestinians joining in the events, as opposed to the huge number of Israelis there celebrating, according to Amal. Change may be able to occur in the long-term, but not in the short-term, she explained.
“I think there is right and there is wrong,” Amal said.