With military and police accompaniment, the settlers of the Jewish section of Hebron held their traditional Purim parade on Sunday on the backdrop of increased tensions resulting from recent clashes in the city in the past week. The event concluded without any disturbances of the peace.
Despite recent events, some of the Palestinian residents, who watched the parade from the sidelines, also got caught up in the holiday spirit.
Dozens of Purim revelers started out on the parade route in Kiryat Arba, and continued on to the Cave of the Patriarchs. Police prohibited entry to the complex itself out of concerns that it would reignite riots at the site. Simultaneously, many Palestinians were not allowed to cross the parade path.
Purim celebrations in Hebron (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
Many of the celebrators were intoxicated and carried bottles of hard liquor in their hands. During the parade, some of them shouted: "With God's help, Hebron will be ours on this Purim."
At one point along the parade route, a few Palestinian school children tried to derail the Purim partiers, but were evacuated by the police and Border Guard officers securing the event.
Islam Fakouri, 19, from Hebron, stood and watched as the Purim parade passed by. Though he seemed to be enjoying the festive atmosphere, he emphasized that the atmosphere in the city is still quite tense on the backdrop of Israel's declaration that the Cave of Patriarchs is on Israel's list of national heritage sites.
"The situation as of now is not good for anyone. (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's decisions are likely to ignite the entire area," said Fakouri.
"It is clear to everyone that it isn't merely renovating the site. This entire issue is politically sensitive. It's lucky that the military and the police escorted the settlers. Otherwise, the area would have been ablaze because they would have thrown stones at us. Despite everything, we wish the Jews a happy holiday," Fakouri concluded.
'All Jewish holy sites should be under Israeli control'
Eitan Cohen, from Jerusalem, attended the Hebron Purim parade dressed up as a soldier. "The Jewish presence here on this holiday has great significance in light of the fact that the Jewish people in Megillat Esther fought against those who sought to annihilate them. Likewise, the Jewish settlement in Hebron continues to fight for the right to exist within the State of Israel," Cohen said.
Shlomo also addressed the inclusion of the Cave of the Patriarchs on the national heritage site list and expressed hope that "next Purim Hebron, Rachel's Tomb, and all the other Jewish holy sites will be under Israeli control. Then the celebration will be complete," he asserted.