Itongadol.- Tens of thousands of Israelis are marking the 48th anniversary of Israel’s unification of Jerusalem Sunday, with ceremonies and a march which has raised tensions over its route through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.
Memorials and controversial march expected for Jerusalem Day
Events are planned throughout the city, including concerts, open museums and parades to mark Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War and the unification of the capital.
Government events will include memorials for soldiers killed during the 1967 war and a ceremony which will include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other prominent officials.
The holiday has sparked controversy in the past. Many associate the day with nationalist events and a so-called annual “flag march” through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, which has been marred by racist chants and Jewish-Arab clashes in the past.
As a result, some groups protest the holiday rather than celebrate. A court petition by several organizations to force organizers to move the route of the parade was rejected by the High Court last week.
The justices — who said they reached their decision “with a heavy heart” — ordered police to arrest and prosecute any participants engaging in violence, vandalism or any other overt displays of anti-Arab racism.
In 2014, flag-carrying Israelis were filmed skirmishing with Palestiniansat Damascus Gate. On nearby Salah al-Din Street, Palestinians stoned an Egged bus, injuring seven Israelis. The previous year, similar disturbances led to the arrest of 23 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
Some groups have begun alternative events on Jerusalem Day hoping to bridge perceived gaps between the Jewish and Arab residents of the city.
Some of these events are sponsored by the This is Jerusalem coalition and will include alternative marches, tours and a concert at the First Train Station entertainment complex.
Ammunition Hill, the site of a fierce battle during the fight for the city in 1967 and today home to a monument to fallen soldiers, will host an official government ceremony attended by Netanyahu, Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and other dignitaries.
A number of other ceremonies are also planned, including at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, at the Rockefeller Museum, the American consulate in Jerusalem, and a special event for Ethiopian Jews who died on their journey to Israel.
Special prayer services are expected in the afternoon at the Western Wall, followed by a rally that is expected to draw thousands to the Western Wall plaza.
The day is also celebrated as a religious holiday by religious Zionist Jews, who mark the holiday with special prayer services.
Settlements throughout the West Bank also celebrate Jerusalem Day as the beginning of the Gush Emunim movement and the liberation of the territory, opening it to eventual Jewish settlement.