Today is “Jerusalem Day”, the day Israelis celebrate the unification of the city of Jerusalem in 1967 . It is one of the lowest rating holidays in Israel attracting minimum public participation and attention. I believe that for most Jewish Israelis the importance of the Jerusalem day, if at all, is to celebrate our return to the Old City, the holy sites and the Western Wall. Jerusalem is heart of the state of Israel. It is a symbol for the Jewish people and for the Jewish religion (just as it is for the Palestinians) and we cannot give up on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, the very unification of Jerusalem (i.e. the annexation of 28 Palestinian neighborhoods in 70 sq.km around Jerusalem in 1967) was not a good thing for Jerusalem nor did it contribute to strengthen the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Most of Jewish Israelis, including the Jerusalemites, are not really aware of the meaning of this unification. We don’t see nor visit the Palestinian neighborhoods that were annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, and we have almost no interaction with the 300,000 Palestinians residing in the united city of Jerusalem.
This is why in recent years, the main event of Jerusalem Day, which is a big parade in the streets of the Old City, is attended almost solely by right wing, mostly national religious, youngsters. Unfortunately this parade has become one of the most vulgar expressions of the Israeli occupation.
Last year, activists from Solidarity documented the parade and all its ugly expressions of racism and nationalism (see video below).
This year the Jerusalem police distributed an announcement calling upon the Palestinian shopkeepers at the Old City to close their shops during the parade. Unfortunately, this announcement is unnecessary. Every resident, shopkeeper or visitor of the Old City knows that the Jerusalem Day is a dangerous day, where Jewish youngsters allow themselves to turn over market stands, damage goods and even violently attack Palestinians who happen to be in the street.
Personally, this parade turns Jerusalem Day into the most unpleasant day of the year in Jerusalem. It should have been a day in which we bring change to the situation in Jerusalem, to offer hope to its residents and to outstretch our hands in peace. Jerusalem should and could become the city of peace, where two capitals, an Israeli and a Palestinian one, reside in peace side by side. It is possible, and this Jerusalem Day peace activists throughout Israel will continue to strive for it.
Translation of the police announcement:
To the citizens and shopkeepers of the Old City Marhaba (hello),
We’d like to inform you that 20/5/2012, the upcoming Sunday, will be Jerusalem Day, and the pedestrian movement will be more dense than usual. Tens of thousands of citizens will come on foot in the direction of the Old City and the Western Wall.
We would like to ask the shopkeepers in David st., Bab Alsalsaleh st. and Hagay st. to close the shops from 5:00 o’clock pm (not compulsory), all this in order to prevent additional friction on this day.
- The beginning of the big parade, of about 50,000 people, will come from Jaffa Gate, David St. ,Alsalsaleh St., the Western Wall
- 40,000 will arrive from Damascus Gate,Hagay St., the Western Wall.
Comment: it is forbidden to put out goods outside the stores or hang clothing or other things at the entrance of the shop, beginning at 4:00 pm.
Thank you very much for your cooperation,
The Kishleh Police [the Old City station]
Watch last year’s parade