Itongadol.- Thousands of youths, overwhelmingly from the national-religious and settler community, participated in the annual Jerusalem Day march through the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday, marred somewhat by outbreaks of scuffles and tense confrontations at Damascus Gate between the marchers and Arab journalists and observers.
Clashes erupt amid \’Jerusalem Day\’ march through Old City
The participants, mostly from national-religious youth movements, high schools, and yeshivas, flocked down to the entrance of Damascus Gate where they sang and danced raucously before entering the Old City and streaming across the breadth of the citadel towards the Western Wall.
A minor fracas broke out at one stage as the marchers confronted Arab journalists and observers gathered above the entrance to Damascus Gate at the street level. At one stage various objects including staffs from Israeli flags and water bottles were hurled by marchers towards the assorted journalists.
Video footage from the ensuing scuffle, in which marchers broke through the police barrier, showed a cameraman from French television station TV1 being struck by one of the march participants with a flag staff, sustaining minor cuts to his head and arm.
Amihai Meymarom from the settlement of Bet El said that the march was about "the Jewish people identifying with Jerusalem and the center of Jerusalem the Temple Mount," and said that those showing hostility to Arabs were a small minority.
"There are people causing a provocation but they are very marginal in numbers and the large majority by far are people who really love Jerusalem and I wish that skeptical people would come and join and see it\’s about happiness, dancing and singing for Jerusalem." Inside the Western Wall plaza, a carnival atmosphere prevailed with live music, dancing and speeches staged at the site.
Several politicians were present including Minister of Housing and Bayit Yehudi MK Uri Ariel, LIkud MK Gilad Erdan, and several others.
Earlier, marchers and protestors from the Tag Meir equality and anti-discrimination organization confronted each other. Jerusalem Day marchers burnt one of the Tag Meir signs but there was otherwise no hostilities.
Tag Meir volunteers distributed flowers to Arab residents of east Jerusalem and the Old City as a sign of protest against the Jerusalem Day, frequently seen as a provocation against Arab residents of the capital.
"Arab residents of the Old City have suffered in recent years from open hatred and harsh racism during this annual march," said Tag Meir chairman Gadi Gavrihu.
"We distributed flowers in order to show the beautiful face of Judaism," he explained.