© 2024 KRWG
News that Matters.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists march for Jerusalem Day

Tens of thousands of Israelis marched through the streets of Jerusalem Wednesday to mark Jerusalem Day. The march begins in west Jerusalem and travels through east Jerusalem and the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, ending at the Western Wall. The march marks the anniversary of the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel annexed East Jerusalem, including the Western Wall.
Maya Levin for NPR
Tens of thousands of Israelis marched through the streets of Jerusalem Wednesday to mark Jerusalem Day. The march begins in west Jerusalem and travels through east Jerusalem and the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, ending at the Western Wall. The march marks the anniversary of the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel annexed East Jerusalem, including the Western Wall.

JERUSALEM — Tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists marched through the streets of Jerusalem on Wednesday, waving Israeli flags, singing, dancing and banging drums. As part of Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday, they marched from the western part of the city and into predominantly Palestinian areas, sometimes chanting religious songs and other times anti-Arab slurs.

In the hours before the march, Palestinian shopkeepers closed early, shuttering their stores as groups of Israeli teen boys harassed and taunted them. In at least one instance, they rushed a shop, breaking glass and throwing goods to the floor. The teens shoved journalists, pushing at least one to the ground and causing blood to pour down his face. Leftist Israeli activists were also present, trying to protect Palestinians from attacks and calm tensions.

Rimon Himo, 69, a Palestinian resident of the Old City of Jerusalem, stands in front of his shop after being attacked by a mob.
Maya Levin for NPR /
Rimon Himo, 69, a Palestinian resident of the Old City of Jerusalem, stands in front of his shop after being attacked by a mob.

“Troublemakers!” Palestinian shopkeeper Rimon Himo, 69, yelled as Israeli teens surrounded his juice shop in the Old City’s Muslim quarter. One boy flipped both his middle fingers at Himo.

“You see this? If they were Arab, they would be arrested immediately, but because they are Jewish, the police do nothing!” Himo said.

The boys formed a circle, jumping and chanting “Wipe them out,” referring to Palestinians. Eventually a burst of pepper spray dispersed the crowd.

Israeli ultra-nationalist youth attack a Palestinian journalist ahead of the march in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Maya Levin for NPR /
Israeli ultra-nationalist youth attack a Palestinian journalist ahead of the march in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
People help a Palestinian journalist who said he was injured by an Israeli police officer while documenting aggression against local shopkeepers on Jerusalem Day.
Maya Levin for NPR /
People help a Palestinian journalist who said he was injured by an Israeli police officer while documenting aggression against local shopkeepers on Jerusalem Day.

Jerusalem Day marks the anniversary of the Six-Day War between Israel and its neighbors in 1967, when Israel annexed East Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, a key holy site in Judaism. In that war, Israel also gained control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula (which Egypt later reclaimed). Those territories – including East Jerusalem – remain disputed and most countries do not recognize Israel’s claim to them. The Palestinians consider East Jerusalem to be the capital of their hoped-for future independent state.

The annual march regularly inflames Israeli-Palestinian tensions, but this year those tensions are even higher because of the war in Gaza, which started after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel last Oct. 7. They killed 1,200 people in that attack and took more than 240 hostage. Since the war began, Israeli attacks have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians.

Around 3,000 Israeli police officers were deployed for the event, lining the streets and patrolling the Old City. They stepped in to try to disperse the teens and keep crowds moving, saying their main concern was safety. Earlier in the day, Hamas had issued a statement calling on Palestinians to rise in a “day of anger” against the march. But in Jerusalem, Palestinians mostly just stayed away.

A member of Tag Meir, an Israeli group working against hate crime and racism, hands out flowers to residents of the Old City before the march begins.
Maya Levin for NPR /
A member of Tag Meir, an Israeli group working against hate crime and racism, hands out flowers to residents of the Old City before the march begins.
Israeli marchers dance at Damascus Gate, the entrance to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Tens of thousands of Israelis marched through the streets of Jerusalem Wednesday for Jerusalem Day.
Maya Levin for NPR /
Israeli marchers dance at Damascus Gate, the entrance to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Tens of thousands of Israelis marched through the streets of Jerusalem Wednesday for Jerusalem Day.

Israelis marching expressed a need to show unity, especially this year, after the Oct. 7 attacks.

“Jerusalem is our heart,” said 63-year-old Mati Elkayam, who had come with his 14-year-old son. “The attack made it even more crucial for us to come here and be part of the nation, and show that we are with our country.”

Some of the most prominent far-right members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet were in attendance, including Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir. He made remarks about Jews being able to "pray anywhere" in Jerusalem, calling for a change in Israeli policy to allow Jewish prayer at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Netanyahu later said the status quo at the site would not change.

Israel's right-wing national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir waves as tens of thousands of Israelis march through the streets of Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Maya Levin for NPR /
Israel's right-wing national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir waves as tens of thousands of Israelis march through the streets of Jerusalem on Wednesday.

While the march played out in Jerusalem, the Israeli military launched a new offensive in central Gaza. A Palestinian hospital director there told NPR more than 140 Palestinians were killed by Israeli bombardment in the area since Tuesday, including at a U.N. facility sheltering displaced families.

Itay Stern contributed to this report in Jerusalem.

Copyright 2024 NPR