|Horses, marchers on Jerusalem Day_370 .(Photo by: Melanie Lidman )|
15 arrested in clashes marring Jerusalem Day
By MELANIE LIDMAN
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.
commemorates the anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, when IDF soldiers
liberated the Old City and the Temple Mount from Jordan’s Arab
Five Arabs were arrested for throwing objects at the marchers,
and 10 Jews were arrested for chanting racist slogans.
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
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
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
Due to status quo agreements, Jews are allowed to visit the
Temple Mount during certain hours but are not allowed to openly
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.”