Jerusalem Day is meant to be a celebration of the city’s ‘reunification’ following Israel’s victory in the 1967 war. In practice, it is a day for Israeli nationalists, draped in flags, dancing in circles, singing and chanting (including the popular Israeli nationalist chant, ‘death to Arabs’) as they march through the streets of East Jerusalem and the Old City. Many of the Jewish demonstrators are bused in from right-wing yeshivas in Israel and the West Bank.
East Jerusalem resident Aziz Abu Sarah writes that the Israeli police ‘suggest’ to the Palestinian merchants that they close their shops early on Jerusalem Day, in order to ‘reduce tension’; in previous years, the yeshiva students attacked Palestinians in the Old City and vandalized their property. The police issue an outright order to Palestinian merchants to clear away any merchandise that is displayed outside the shop. In the same post, Aziz describes the year he was prevented by a police officer from returning to his own home on Jerusalem Day, even though his identity card showed he was a resident, because his presence – in his own neighbourhood – might disturb the celebrations.
In recent years, a few Israeli left-wing activists have staged small counter-demonstrations outside the old city’s gates, as the celebratory marchers stream past. Generally, the counter-demonstrators hold small signs with slogans like “East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory,” and the like. A few Palestinians hold a vigil, too, usually with Palestinian flags in their hands.
This year, an Orthodox Jewish man grabbed the Palestinian flag from the hands of a 10 year-old boy and refused to return it. The boy, enraged, tried to prise it out of the Jewish man’s hands. A Border Police officer, seeing the struggle between a 10 year-old Palestinian boy and a fully grown Jewish man, chased the Palestinian boy rather than ordering the Jewish man to return the flag. Someone made a montage of the incident and posted it on Facebook, with commentary. Note the expression of rage in the Border Police officer’s eyes, as seen in the second photo.
In the end the boy got away, due to the intervention of a 22 year-old Israeli activist from Jerusalem named Sahar Vardi, who threw herself in front of the Border Police officer just as he was about to grab the child. Photojournalist Haim Schwarczenberg caught the incident.
The incident was also filmed and the clip posted on Youtube:
Meanwhile, there are some violent reactions on Facebook to the image of the enraged Border Police officer chasing the frightened Palestinian boy. Some of the comments are a bit funny, in a sad way – like the comment from Geffen Cnaani, a woman in her 20s who works for a medical care provider, who writes (my translation from the Hebrew):