Israelis celebrated the 52nd anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification under Israeli rule on Sunday while clashes broke out on the Temple Mount between Muslims and Jews who were allowed up to the site.
Jerusalem Day tends to be contentious and police were bracing for violence. Waving Israeli flags, tens of thousands of people took to the streets for the annual parade. Many of them enter Damascus Gate and march through the Muslim Quarter, singing and dancing, which Muslims view as antagonistic.
The march passed without incident, but police entering the Temple Mount were met by hundreds of rioters “throwing chairs and other objects at police forces,” according to the Jerusalem police spokesperson.
Five rioters were arrested. Police quelled the rioting and some 120 Jews were allowed to enter the Temple Mount, built on the remains of the Second Temple. The rest of the day passed without incident.
Jews and tourists are generally forbidden to enter the compound during the last days of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. The police, however, decided on Sunday morning to allow the entrance of Jews specifically for Jerusalem Day.
Jordanian, Palestinian and left-wing Israeli officials slammed the provocative decision. The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “unequivocally condemns the continuation of Israeli violations against Al-Aqsa, by the break-in of extremists [to the Temple Mount] in a defiant manner with the backing of security forces.” Jordan is the custodian of the holy site.
Jerusalem Day is the commemoration of the reunification of Jerusalem as well as Israel’s capture of the Temple Mount in the 1967 Six-Day War. The day is nationalistic in nature and not a religious holiday.
President Reuven Rivlin used the occasion to thank U.S. President Donald Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating the embassy there last year.
“This is the time to thank President Trump and the American people for their steadfast friendship and for his groundbreaking decision,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about how much Jerusalem has changed since 1967.
“We are building it, strengthening it, worrying about its future and developing it into a prosperous city that will not only be a focal point for spirituality and the renewal of Jewish heritage, but also a city that is being renewed with global technology,” he said.