Arabs and Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line commemorated Nakba Day on Sunday with various events in city centers and refugee camps.
The Nakba, meaning catastrophe, commemorates the formation of Israel, when many Arabs fled or were expelled from their towns and villages during the 1948 Independence War started by neighboring Arab armies that sought to destroy the day-old State of Israel.
The main display in the West Bank was built in the form of a train that was dubbed the "return train." It left from the Dheisheh Refugee Camp just south of Bethlehem and reached the checkpoint near Rachel's Tomb, accompanied by a procession of Palestinians. Marchers used keys and other props to symbolize their demand to return to what is now Israel.
Following that, Palestinians rioted in several locations with clashes breaking out near the checkpoint at Rachel's Tomb.
Near the Beit El checkpoint, security forces were deployed to prevent rioters from engaging in clashes and to secure the French foreign minister's visit to the Muqata'a in Ramallah.
Arab students held a ceremony to commemorate Nakba Day at Tel Aviv University on Sunday afternoon. Activists from right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu protested nearby against the ceremony, waving Israeli flags. Police said that the event was without incident.
This the fifth consecutive year that this ceremony is being held on campus by Arab and Israeli students. It included the reading of Nakba stories in three languages - Hebrew, Arabic and English - by students from displaced families, with the aim of spreading the story of the Nakba in Israeli society.
Ahmad Mahamid from Umm al-Fahm who came to the ceremony said, "The Jews' Independence Day is our Nakba Day. We came to Tel Aviv to have our cries heard, to say that we will not give up our land and we will continue to fight. We will not allow the racist government to expel us from where we were born…We demand the return of our lands which were conquered by force."
Mahamid railed against what he termed "the racism spreading throughout Israel, with no one to stop it. The silence of the police and the government encourages attacks against Arab civilians. This government has abandoned us and is trying to humiliate us everywhere."
The ceremony's organizers wrote that "the Nakba, in addition to being a tragedy of the Palestinian people, is also a human tragedy in which justice was defeated and in which injustice was done to an entire people. We are not satisfied referencing the national level of the disaster, we must also emphasize the human level." Arab Knesset members from the Joint List also participated in the event.
Bar Shalev, 25, an economics student, came to support Im Tirtzu. "There's a bunch of people here trying to rewrite history, to pass on a mendacious narrative," she pointed out. "They are the ones who attacked and fled in 1948. We are not going to cry over winning the war. There are Arab students here who study at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer, all the while undermining the state's existence and defining the day of its founding as a day of mourning. These are tense days at the university and there are lecturers who support these students' activities," she concluded.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.