Hundreds join in alternative 'peaceful and tolerant' Jerusalem Day March

“This [march] is the real way to celebrate this city. This city is a city of love, a city of community, a city that is respectful."

People participate in the alternative Jerusalem Day march on May 13, 2018
With bands, balloons and fanfare, several hundred men, women and children took part in an alternative Jerusalem Day march on Sunday through south Jerusalem and away from the clamor of the central Jerusalem Flag Parade in the Old City of Jerusalem, in what has become an annual event in the capital.
The alternative “Jerusalem March,” organized by the Yerushalmim Movement and the Reshut Harabim organization, is now in its fifth year and was attended by local politicians, social activists and hundreds of Jerusalemites looking for a festive and more relaxed way to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem.
Marchers winded their way through the Train Track Park between the German Colony and Baka neighborhoods, pushing baby strollers and accompanied by a spirited brass band, up to the First Station for the climactic celebrations of the event.
Ahuva Lebor from the city’s Baka neighborhood came for the third year in a row with her husband and two children, and said that the alternative march was “only about good things and consensus, does not trample on others or hurt others,” and “increases good and shows the best side of Jerusalem.”
“There is an amazing community here that accepts everyone, there is unbelievable diversity here, you can see all parts of the population here, wonderful families with great love for this city and for this country, without going somewhere to defy [others] and where people can be offended,” said Lebor.
“This [march] is the real way to celebrate this city.
This city is a city of love, a city of community, a city that is respectful, and this is the best and most respectful march where you see real love for Jerusalem.”
Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a deputy-mayor of Jerusalem from the Yerushalmim party, said that the impetus for the march five years ago came from a feeling that the central march through the Old City, which passes through the Muslim Quarter, had been “a bit hijacked by more nationalist groups,” and said that “elements of the march are ugly when they try and provoke Arabs.”
Some participants in the Flag Parade frequently bang on the doors of Arab homes and businesses, and chant abusive and even racist songs towards Arab residents of the Old City, while violence has also broken out in the past.
“The message of this march is that we are celebrating Jerusalem Day and we are proud of that, but we want a Jerusalem that is peaceful and tolerant,” Hassan-Nahoum told The Jerusalem Post.
She said that the day and its celebrations should not be about hatred for another people, but instead love of Jerusalem, and argued that the day itself, commemorating the establishment of Israeli control over the entire city, should be joyously and proudly celebrated.
“We have captured Jerusalem from Jordan and we’ve liberated it. We sanctify the freedom of religion and freedom of worship, and it is because of us that Christians and Muslims can worship freely. We [Jews] didn’t have that luxury before 1967, and we are [now] the guardians of freedom of worship in this city,” she said.
Along with the Jerusalem March, numerous other events with an inclusive and tolerant theme were staged around the capital by the Jerusalem Tolerance project of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center organization, together with other coexistence groups, including a series of events at Light Rail stations.
A workshop for constructive communication was conducted at the Mahaneh Yehudah stop, music and dance performances were staged at the Davidka and Municipality stops, and dialogue groups in Hebrew, Arabic and sign language were staged at the municipality’s light-rail station.
Michal Shilor, the Jerusalem Tolerance project manager, lauded efforts in the capital to encourage tolerance and coexistence, and insisted that the city can be proud of its attitude to the other, pointing out that there are 80 organizations and 1,000 employees in the city working towards these goals, holding some 500 events throughout the year.
“There is real infrastructure here for promoting tolerance in Jerusalem,” said Shilor.
“The message of our events is that Jerusalemites are taking responsibility for Jerusalem Day, and that there is a different way to celebrate and mark Jerusalem Day, and that there is space for all opinions and all people in this city.”
She added that it is “very easy to be tolerant in Tel Aviv because you don’t meet haredim and Arabs on the street, but in Jerusalem you do.” She pointed to “extremely low numbers of incidents” of racist abuse or attacks on Jerusalem’s light rail – which is used by Jews and Arabs, secular people, religious and haredim – as evidence of her position that tolerance in the capital is alive and well.
“There are 160,000 people who use the light rail every day and there are almost zero incidents of racism. It’s an amazing statistic,” she said.