Nahum Barnea
Nahum Barnea
Photo: Dana Kopel
Flag march, Jerusalem

On Jerusalem Day, love for the capital replaced by hatred towards Arabs

Opinion: The historic purpose of the flag march has been hijacked by religious Zionists, who use it as an expression of defiance of government and Arab presence in Jerusalem

Nahum Barnea |
Published: 05.30.22, 14:20
Along the steep slope leading to the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City - there is a crossroad.
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  • To the right, there is an alleyway that leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and to the left, there is a road into the Muslim Quarter, and from there, to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
    7 View gallery
    מצעד הדגלים בשער שכם
    מצעד הדגלים בשער שכם
    Flag march, Jerusalem
    (Photo: AFP )
    The crossroad was the scene of a battle on Sunday, during the Jerusalem Day flag march.
    Masses of religious boys, students of Zionist religious schools and institutions, marched towards the Damascus Gate, dressed in white.
    A group of 30 Palestinian youth waited for them along both sides of the street. "Am Yisrael Chai (The People of Israel Live)," the Jewish youth sang as they marched with their heads and hands held high.
    Some of the raised hands, however, turned into clenched fists and middle fingers perturbed, while some of the nationalist slogans turned into hate speech.
    7 View gallery
    עימותים בעיר העתיקה בירושלים לקראת מצעד הדגלים בעיר
    עימותים בעיר העתיקה בירושלים לקראת מצעד הדגלים בעיר
    Clashes at the Old City
    (Photo: Eric Marmor)
    "Mohammed the pig," "The Shem is the King", and "Shuafat will burn down" - a reference to the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, from the Eastern Jerusalem neighborhood Shuafat, by the Jews.
    "Allahu Akbar," shouted the Palestinians in response. The shouts turned into curses and slurs in Arabic and spitting towards the Jewish marchers. Every few minutes a brawl boke out.
    7 View gallery
    עימותים בעיר העתיקה בירושלים לקראת מצעד הדגלים בעיר
    עימותים בעיר העתיקה בירושלים לקראת מצעד הדגלים בעיר
    Clashes at the Old City
    (Photo: Eric Marmor)
    At 2pm, store owners realized no good would come of this day and began to close their businesses one after another.
    Store owners begged the police to intervene, and when they realized their requests would yield no outcome - they took their merchandise inside and called it a day.
    The large police presence prevented loss of control. Every brawl was extinguished within minutes.
    The armed forces ran up and down the alleyways, trying to catch their breath between clashes.
    The Jews and Arabs alike cursed the cops, while the officers tried to shoo everyone away, and keep the traffic of people moving.
    7 View gallery
    עימותים בהר העתיקה
    עימותים בהר העתיקה
    Clashes at the Old City
    (Photo: AFP)
    "Let's see if they dare come without the police," Palestinians said of the marchers, and expressed anger at the racist and insulting slogans directed at them.
    Along with the police's protection, the Jewish groups relied on their numbers to shield them from harm. They marched in packs of ten or twenty at a time. Some of the boys no older than 13 - hardly teenagers.
    Several were wearing tefillin, maybe in hopes the religious garb would protect them from being knifed, or spit at. "Revenge," shouted the youth as they descended the path in the Old City.
    Later, the fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club team, who call themselves La Familia, and members of the extreme Lehava movement, came marching down the alleys, shouting "Death to the Arabs".
    7 View gallery
    יום ירושלים בכותל
    יום ירושלים בכותל
    Flag march reaches Western Wall
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Paramedics from the Palestine Red Crescent Society and other medical personnel in orange vests were dispersed throughout the alleys, prepared to attend to injured Palestinians. MDA paramedics were also present, ready to treat the Jews. Each group having prepared their own emergency teams.
    According to data from the police, over 20 thousand people visited the Western Wall on Sunday, most of them came through the Damascus Gate, and a minority entered through the Jaffa Gate.
    While some came to incite riots, they were a minority among the mostly-young crowd at the event. The others came to celebrate Jerusalem Day and send a message.
    Jerusalem is the capital of my state and my nation. It's an important and fascinating city. It deserves a special day annually, to honor it. It is a shame that the some among our nation, the far-right and their supporters, hijacked this day and made it their own.
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    יום ירושלים בכותל
    יום ירושלים בכותל
    Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall
    (Photo: AFP )
    The participants were overwhelmingly made up of right-wing Zionist religious Jews. It is their right, no one can argue that. But claiming ownership has a price.
    Aside from being a reason to celebrate, Jerusalem Day is a reason to incite - defy the government for not being right-wing enough to their liking, and oppose the presence of the Arabs in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
    Hatred towards Arabs has replaced love towards Jerusalem. And indeed, the Old City on Sunday looked occupied - stores were closed, people in uniforms flooded the streets, and hate was preached by all its residents.
    In an event in the mixed city of Lod earlier in the day, I saw buses filled with religious Jewish youth, from the West Bank settlements, who were driven there to partake in a similar march to mark one year since racial riots traumatized the city.
    7 View gallery
    עימותים והרס בשכונת שייח ג'ראח ברקע מצעד הדגלים
    עימותים והרס בשכונת שייח ג'ראח ברקע מצעד הדגלים
    Clashes in Sheikh Jarrah on Jerusalem Day
    (Photo: Erik Marmour )
    While this year's events went smoothly in comparison to 2021 when the march served as the catalyst for the Gaza war, the purpose of the parade was clearly to provoke the Arabs.
    On that same afternoon, The Ammunition Hill Heritage Site hosted an annual event for the IDF paratroopers' battalion, which lost 30 of its soldiers in the battles in Jerusalem 55 years ago. I myself served in the same battalion.
    The older paratrooper veterans are coming close to 80 years old. Not one of them danced or celebrated on the hill, they commemorated the fallen soldiers, the hardships of the battles, and the effort to honor human lives even in times of war.
    A deep abyss stands between what took place at the Ammunition Hill and the events at the Damascus Gates, a divide that no dance or parade could compensate for.

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