Jerusalem Day - Olivier Fitoussi - May 21, 2012
Youth celebrate Jerusalem Day in the Old City. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Hundreds of Jewish youths participating in the Jerusalem Day flag procession shouted anti-Muslim slogans like "Mohammed is dead" at Palestinians holding a rally in the capital's Old City to protest the march.

The marchers yesterday also attacked three left-wing protesters trying to document the flag procession, the activists said. One said dozens of marchers surrounded them, shouting "Death to the leftists," and that a marcher broke the handle of an Israeli flag on her head. The left-wing activists also said the marchers spit at them and threw things at them.

Border Police protected the activists and escorted them away after 10 minutes.

Police also clashed with hundreds of the Palestinian protesters near Damascus Gate. They arrested 10 marchers suspected of shouting anti-Muslim and anti-Arab slogans, and five Palestinians suspected of throwing objects at the marchers.

Organizers of the march had pledged that unlike last year, participants would not shout incendiary statements. But while the organizers said only a few outliers failed to adhere to that standard, hundreds of young people spent hours shouting at the Palestinians protesting near Damascus Gate.

Among the refrains were "The Temple will be rebuilt, the mosque will be burned." The marchers also shouted that Arabs were "sons of whores" and applauded Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler who massacred 29 Muslim worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs during the Purim holiday in 1994.

A large police contingent was deployed at the event, which started in downtown Jerusalem, entered the Old City through Damascus Gate, continued into the Muslim Quarter and ended at the Western Wall.

Some left-wing protesters gathered at Damascus Gate to protest the holding of the march in Arab neighborhoods. Police separated the protesters from the marchers before the confrontations could escalate.

Most businesses on Hagai Street, the main road in the Old City's Muslim Quarter, closed before the march began, to avoid clashes with the marchers.

Throughout the day, groups from yeshivas and high schools paraded through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, waving Israeli flags and singing songs about Jerusalem.

Police had planned to change the route of this year's event to avoid incidents. But they ultimately agreed to allow right-wingers to pass through the Muslim Quarter after speaking to the organizers, who pledged to prevent last year's ugly scenes.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to keep Jerusalem united.

The city "will not be divided again," he said at the state Jerusalem Day ceremony on the capital's Ammunition Hill.

"I know that there are some who say that if only we were to divide Jerusalem there would be peace," he said. "I don't believe that."

Earlier in the day, MKs Uri Ariel and Michael Ben Ari, both of National Union, visited the Temple Mount, accompanied by about 20 right-wing activists.

Ben Ari and two other right-wing figures prostrated themselves on the Temple Mount, where the Muslim Waqf does not allow Jews to pray. Police detained them afterward.

"It's our right to pray at the Temple Mount," Ben Ari said. "The police are doing the Waqf's work for them."