Train through Jerusalem: Nerves flutter as the flag marches by

Demonstrators chanted Arab and anti-Islam slogans, danced and waved Israeli flags as they gathered outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s historic Old City, a central square for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. “We are sending a message to Hamas from here: Jerusalem is ours. Damascus Gate is ours,” shouted right-wing National Defense Minister Itamar Ben-Ghir: “With God’s help, total victory is ours.”

Shortly before the start of the march, participants attacked a group of journalists reporting for Arab and Israeli media. Among other things, demonstrators attacked an Israeli reporter for the liberal newspaper Haaretz, who stood guard in front of other colleagues. This was announced by another “Haaretz” journalist X (Twitter). According to the police, five people were arrested.

APA/AFP/Menahem Kahana

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, but the annexation of East Jerusalem is not internationally recognized.

In recent years, there have been repeated violent clashes at the march, with participants ignoring demands from law enforcement for peace and confrontation with Palestinian residents of the Old City.

Although Jerusalem has remained relatively calm since the October 7 Hamas-led attack that sparked the war, there are fears the march could upset the city’s delicate balance. There have been calls inside and outside of Israel to change the route to avoid going through the Muslim Quarter.

Tension in Jerusalem day

Jerusalem Day is celebrated in Israel. A large number of Israeli nationalists gathered at the flag parade. Given the war in Gaza, the holiday proves to be particularly sensitive.

Maintain the track

However, under pressure from Ben-Gvir, police confirmed on Monday that they would maintain a regular route from Jerusalem’s city center to the Western Wall. Participants can access the wall by two routes, one through the Dung Gate and the second through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter.

Police insisted the march would not enter the sprawling grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The hill on which the mosque stands is a very sacred place for the Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because the Jewish temples were located there in ancient times.

Israeli border police and participants in a flag parade in Jerusalem

AP/Ohad Zwigenberg

Due to the tense situation, police security in the capital has been significantly increased

Jerusalem city council member Laura Warden, who represents the left-wing Merase party, told the Times of Israel news site that she was ashamed the city government had nothing to do with the march, draining the city’s resources. “I am appalled that when we are at war and trying to protect our borders, we support such a provocative event,” he said.

Liberal circles are calling for change

Warden is not alone in his opinion. More liberal circles in Jerusalem have called for radical changes in the way the city conducts the parade, or its elimination altogether. “Marching in the Muslim Quarter everywhere is a provocation, which is the last thing we need right now, the last thing a true patriot would do right now,” Wharton said.

Shai Rosengarten, deputy director of the right-wing advocacy group Im Tirzu, which took part in the march, said the walk through the Old City was not a provocation but a “natural and historical right” of the Jewish people. “Jerusalem is under the sovereignty of Israel; As far as we know, his condition has not changed since the start of the war,” he said in his statement.

Counter events were planned throughout the day. An Israeli group, Tag Meir, sent volunteers into the city’s empty streets ahead of the parade, handing out flowers to Christian and Muslim residents of the Old City.

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