Fearing Clashes, Police Boost Security Ahead of Jerusalem Day March

Some 3,000 religious Zionists plan to march in a contentious East Jerusalem neighborhood to mark the unification of the capital.

Israeli police stepped up patrols across Jerusalem on Wednesday to prevent possible clashes when Israelis march through the largely Palestinian East Jerusalem, to mark the anniversary of Israel's capture of the area in 1967.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says 3,000 officers, including border police and undercover units, are on patrol.

March in East Jerusalem - Emil Salman - 2010
Emil Salman

One of the biggest events of Jerusalem Day will be a march with flags and dancing staged by the religious Zionist community. About 30,000 Israelis are expected to take part in the march through the largely Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, past a contentious Jewish enclave there.

Sheikh Jarrah has been the scene of repeated clashes over the last two years due to Arab residents' opposition to Jews moving there. From there, the parade will proceed to the Old City and the Western Wall.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will never divide the city.

"To my great regret, the religious Zionist community is the only one that celebrates Jerusalem Day in a significant way," said Jerusalem's Deputy Mayor David Hadari, who is helping to organize the parade. "I'd be happy to see the entire Zionist public at these events."

The left-wing Gush Shalom movement, on the other hand, called for the cancellation of Jerusalem Day, saying the holiday commemorates the annexation of Palestinian territory "under the pretext of false unity."