Jewish youth gather outside Damascus gate on 'Jerusalem Day,' May 17, 2015..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Some 30,000 people, overwhelmingly youths from the national-religious and settler community, participated in the annual Jerusalem Day march through the Old City on Sunday, marred somewhat by outbreaks of scuffles and tense confrontations at the Damascus Gate between the marchers and Arab journalists and observers.
Approximately 3,000 Israel Police personnel were present to secure the event.
The participants, mostly from national-religious youth movements, high schools, yeshivas and seminaries, flocked down to the entrance of the Damascus Gate where they sang and danced raucously before entering the Old City and streaming across the breadth of the citadel towards the Western Wall. Marchers also entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate.
The police reported that in the late afternoon, stones were thrown by Arab residents of Jerusalem towards the marchers. Several policemen were lightly wounded, and six men were arrested.
Jeruslaem Day March
Later, a minor fracas broke out at one stage as the marchers confronted Arab journalists and observers gathered above the entrance to the Damascus Gate at the street level. At one point objects including staffs from Israeli flags and water bottles were hurled by marchers towards the journalists.
Video footage from the ensuing scuffle, in which marchers broke through the police barrier, showed a cameraman from French television station TV1 being struck by one of the march participants with a flag staff, sustaining minor cuts to his head and arm.
Amihai Meymarom from the settlement of Bet El said that the march was about “the Jewish people identifying with Jerusalem and the center of Jerusalem the Temple Mount,” and those showing hostility to Arabs were a small minority. “There are people causing a provocation, but they are very marginal in numbers and the large majority by far are people who really love Jerusalem and I wish that skeptical people would come and join and see it’s about happiness, dancing and singing for Jerusalem.”
Inside the Western Wall Plaza, a carnival atmosphere prevailed with live music, dancing and speeches.
Several politicians were present, including new Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) and former interior ministers Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Gideon Sa’ar.
Earlier, marchers and protesters from the Tag Meir equality and anti-discrimination organization confronted each other. Jerusalem Day marchers burned one of the Tag Meir signs, but otherwise there were no hostilities.
Tag Meir volunteers distributed flowers to Arab residents of east Jerusalem and the Old City.
“Arab residents of the Old City have suffered in recent years from open hatred and harsh racism during this annual march,” said Tag Meir chairman Gadi Gvaryahu.
“We distributed flowers in order to show the beautiful face of Judaism,” he explained.