orthodox youth 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
This year’s Jerusalem Day celebrations may feature a stark contrast to the festivities of previous years, if Jerusalem Police follow through with an initial decision announced on Wednesday to bar the annual “Flag March” from entering the Old City.
The Flag March, a custom dating back to the holiday’s inception in 1968, is traditionally made up of students from national religious yeshivas who parade through the Old City – from the Damascus Gate to the Western Wall – waving a stream of Israeli flags. The event is often a test of nerves, especially as the procession makes its way through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.
Last year’s march was particularly volatile, according to police, who said on Wednesday that dozens of participants had sprayed graffiti, spat on Arab passers-by, and damaged storefronts in the Muslim Quarter – prompting the decision to reroute this year’s march to a location in the western part of the city.
Word of the decision has evoked outrage from yeshiva students, as well as the organizers of the event, Am K’Lavie, which on Wednesday scheduled a meeting with Jerusalem Police top brass to try and work out an agreement for the march to proceed on its traditional path.
Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby told The Jerusalem
on Wednesday that the meeting had been scheduled for
later in the evening, and that a final decision on the matter would be
announced either Wednesday night or Thursday.
It was unclear whether the potential police decision was also made in
light of the simmering tensions in east Jerusalem. Palestinian
residents there have clashed with security forces on a number of
occasions in the past year, and even a minor incident could inflame an
already delicate situation.
Jerusalem Day was declared a minor religious holiday by the Chief
Rabbinate after the the Six Day War, in which the IDF captured the Old
City and east Jerusalem, thus reunifying the capital. The government
declared it a holiday as well in 1968.
In 1998, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Day Law, making the day a
national holiday that has grown to include a wide variety of festive
observances, both religious and secular.