The Old City quarter of Jerusalem saw a large number of Israelis marching through its alleys on the 5th of June. The participants in the controversial Jerusalem Flag Parade were marking the capture of the ancient city from multiple Arab armies in 1967. The situation was tense as the revelers were mostly students from the Israeli nationalist religious schools. Rabbis accompanied the students, with a few of the participants shouting abuses at few Palestinians bravely out on streets.
Israeli police had vowed to support zero tolerance when it came to racist taunts which were heard during past parades. Even though the march saw some pushes and a few shoves, there were zero incidences of serious violence and minimum arrests were made. Arab shopkeepers were asked to close down their establishments, and they all complied.
Israel has opened the crossings between Israel, Palestinian Authority and Gaza as a part of Ramadan cheer. This action will permit almost free movement between Israel and Palestinian Authority during the Ramadan period. According to Yoav Mordechai, the Major-General of the IDF and Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the move was made by the Israeli government to improve the quality of life of Arab citizens’. By Arabs, the Major General meant Palestinian Authority citizens in Gaza, Judaea and Samaria. The intention also includes maintenance of freedom of religion.
The policy states that Arabs living in Samaria and Judea can enter Israel to visit relatives and also for their Friday worship at Al Aqsa Mosque located on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. If they want, Arab citizens can also travel out of the country through Ben Gurion International Airport. They can visit their relatives who live in Gaza as well. The Gazans are also allowed to enjoy the same benefits.
When it came to the march, the Israeli police were apprehensive as the march happened on Ramadan eve, the starting of a month long fasting and nighttime feasts. Israeli media has already reported a few chants directed against Muslims, a few of them urging listeners to burn down the mosque.
Not all Israelis, however, hold the same views as the protesters; Rabbi Andrew Sacks being one of them. He, along with a few fellow activists, have been distributing red roses to the Palestinians. He said that the flag parade is just an excuse for provocation and racism and the activists are opposed to such activities. The High Court of Justice in Israel had earlier ruled that the yearly parade could take place as usual and follow its usual route through Muslim Quarter to Western Wall.