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May 20, 2012- African Migrants, Jerusalem Day - History

May 20, 2012- African Migrants, Jerusalem Day - History

May 20, 2012- African Migrants, Jerusalem Day

Over the weekend the main topic of discussion in the Israeli media has been the problem of the illegal immigrants from Africa that are now populating South Tel Aviv, along with some other locations. Illegal immigrants have continued to pour in to Israel through a still too porous Egyptian border. This renewed interest is a result a few well publicized crimes by the Africans, as well as the rising tide of complaints from the remaining native residents of the area. The government has proposed a number of steps to help address this problem, including: racing towards completion of the border fence between Israel and Sinai, the creation of a large dentention facility for the illegal immigrants to live in.

However, the most controversial questions center on whether or not to allow these illegal immigrants to work. One view insists that as long as they can work, they will earn so much more money than they were receiving back in their African homelands, that it will just encourage more illegal immigrants to come. The other view, argued by many, including the commander of Israel's police, is that it is in our interest to give them work. Since, if they do not work, they will have no choice but to turn to crime to feed themselves.

There is no question that Israel cannot absorb the numbers of illegal immigrants that are here. The best guess is that there are at least 50,000 illegal African migrants living in the country at the moment (with more than half that number likely situated in South Tel Aviv.) What to do, is unfortunately a significant moral dilemma that begs any simple answer.

Today is Jerusalem Day. It is the day we are supposed to commemorate the liberation of East Jerusalem, and the unification of the city 45 years ago. I have to say, other than a few more radio reports on the state of Jerusalem today, if you do not live in Jerusalem, you would not note any difference between today and any other day. In Israel, after 45 years, the shine has certainly worn off the day.

This week are the next round of talks between the major powes and Iran. There are all sorts of rumors circulating. I will reserve comment until some facts become known.

Blacks In Israel Under Sustained Violent Attacks

Four African migrants have been hurt in a suspected arson attack on their home in Jerusalem, Israeli police say.

The fire was started at the entrance to the two-story building on Jaffa Street in the city center after 03:00 (00:00 GMT), trapping the 10 Eritreans inside.

Graffiti found at the scene read: “We want the foreigners out.”

There is increasing argument and dissent in Israel over what to do with the 60,000 Africans who have entered the country illegally in recent years.

On Sunday, a new law came into force allowing immigration authorities to detain illegal migrants for up to three years.
‘Targeted specifically’

The four Eritreans injured in Monday’s attack were taken to hospital with burns on their hands and suffering from smoke inhalation.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the BBC’s Focus on Africa program: “We believe that those individuals from the African foreign community were targeted specifically.”

He said the building had graffiti sprayed on its walls saying: “We want the foreigners out.”

In recent weeks there have been violent scenes in Israeli towns and cities where many migrants live and work, reports the BBC’s Wyre Davies in Jerusalem.

In south Tel Aviv, in particular, African-run businesses have been attacked and many migrants have been abused in the streets, our correspondent adds.

“This was the first incident which has taken place… on a level of a specific attack,” Mr Rosenfeld said.

The police spokesman said that of the 60,000 illegal immigrants living in Israel, an estimated 35,000 of them lived in the Tel Aviv area and about 5,000 in Jerusalem.

In a newspaper interview on Friday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai referred to African migrants as a demographic threat who could “end the Zionist dream”.

“We don’t need to import more problems from Africa,” Mr Yishai, leader of the religious Shas party, told Maariv.

“Most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.”

One politician from the governing Likud Party recently compared asylum seekers to “a cancer.”

While such language has been deplored by human rights groups, politicians from right-wing parties in the governing coalition say something has to be done about illegal immigrants who are mainly from Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea, our correspondent says.

They blame the migrants for a rise in crime and say they could eventually undermine Israel’s Jewish majority.

The Israeli government also dismisses claims that the migrants, who cross the Sinai desert at the rate of 2,000 a month, are fleeing persecution in their own countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently described African migrants as “infiltrators” who had come here for economic reasons and who were a problem that had to be “solved”.

The new law will allow immigration authorities to detain illegal migrants for up to three years, without trial or deportation.

An interior ministry spokesman said it would hopefully stem the flow of Africans entering Israel illegally across the vast desert border with Egypt.

Anti-African street violence surges in Israel

JERUSALEM – Surging street violence against African migrants, including a rampage that an Israeli broadcaster dubbed a “pogrom”, drew empathy for the rioters from the interior minister on Thursday.

Waving Israeli flags and chanting “Deport the Sudanese”, residents of a low-income Tel Aviv neighbourhood where many of the border-jumpers from Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan live held a march late Wednesday that turned violent.

Police said 20 people were arrested for assault and vandalism. Trash cans were set alight, storefront windows were broken and a crowd attacked an African driving through the area, breaking his car’s windows. No serious injuries were reported.

Interviewing Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Army Radio likened the incident to pogrom attacks on Jews in 19th century Europe. Yishai bristled at such language, citing police findings that Sudanese and Eritrean migrants were a crime risk.

“I cannot judge a man whose daughter gets raped. I cannot judge a young woman who cannot walk home,” said Yishai, who heads a party run by rabbis in the coalition government.

“I cannot under any circumstances judge people who get abused and harmed, and who are then confronted by the state, which says, ‘Why do you behave this way to the foreigners?'”

Fleeing poverty, fighting and authoritarian rule, some 60,000 Africans have crossed illegally into Israel through the relatively porous desert border with Egypt in recent years.

That has jarred the Jewish state, with its already ethnically fraught citizen population of 7.8 million. Some Israelis warn of a gathering demographic and economic crisis while others say a country born after the Holocaust has a special responsibility to offer foreigners sanctuary.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said some 15 percent of city residents were “illegal foreign workers” and the number was growing. Interior Ministry data show 82 percent of the African migrants are men, 15 percent women and the rest children.

Israel says most of the migrants come seeking work rather than refuge, but this has been challenged by U.N. humanitarian agencies and civil rights groups. As a result, the Africans are kept in a legal limbo, many of them granted temporary permits but no clear permanent status.

The government is erecting a fortified fence on the Egyptian border and wants to deport the migrants. But it has no ties with Sudan that would allow direct repatriation, and some humanitarian experts say it cannot force subjects of South Sudan and Eritrea back to those impoverished and ravaged states.

Eritrea’s ambassador to Israel, Tesfamariam Tekeste, said in a television interview on Tuesday that Asmara would admit its citizens who return voluntarily – but not deportees.

An April 1 expulsion order issued by Yishai against illegal South Sudanese was blocked by a Jerusalem court as it considers an appeal by Israeli human rights activists.

Unchecked, the number of Africans illegally in Israel could reach millions and overwhelm the citizenry, Yishai predicted.

“So what, the State of Israel, as the Jewish state, in the name of democracy, in the name of honouring U.N. resolutions, (should accept) a recipe for suicide?” he said.

“The truth has to be told, and believe me it is hard and it hurts, as we are the Jewish people, a merciful people.”

David Gez, a senior Israeli police officer, said Wednesday’s violence was one of several such anti-African incidents this month in Tel Aviv.

Oscar Olivier, a Congolese migrant, said on Army Radio that he has been in Israel for 18 years seeking refugee status and that the public mood reminded him of the assassination in 1995 of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by an ultranationalist Jew.

“I feel like we’re facing a former alcoholic who has started drinking again,” he said in fluent Hebrew. “The question is not if they will kill an African because he is black, but when.”

Olivier acknowledged the migrants posed problems for Israel but said: “There are professional, reliable, serious, and independent laws and judges. Let them decide what to do and how to do it – just without violence.”

African Migrants in South-Tel-Aviv: Some Recent Issues

For Jewish people, Passover marks the beginning of a 50 day time period between two Jewish holidays. The holiday of Passover - Pesach - commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the eventual land of Israel. 50 days later, Jews celebrate the holiday of Shavuoth, which marks the receipt of the Torah. On Shavuoth, the Torah reading that is read out loud in synagogues across the world includes the Ten Commandments. The two holidays, Shavuoth and Pesach, are linked by the idea that with freedom comes responsibility that it is the rule of law that brings order and justice to a community.

As Jews in Israel celebrated their freedom and independence this year, marking not only the holidays of Pesach and Shavuoth but other national holidays that fall within that same 50-day time period including Israeli Independence Day (Yom Haatzmauth) and Israel's Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron), Israelis were also forced to wrestle with the issue of freedom for a different group of people - African migrants who have made their way to Israel from Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea.

What are the legal and moral obligations of western democracies with respect to refugee claims? Are countries obligated to receive and provide shelter for all those who arrive from war-torn or famine-torn countries? If so, if that is something intended by the UN, does the U.N. and its constituent countries have any obligations to help settle, disperse or absorb these refugees and migrants? Or is it just a matter of requiring the nearest country to absorb whatever numbers arrive?

Over the past few years, Israel has seen a very large number of migrants from different African countries, particularly Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea enter the country. (Eritrea borders Sudan and Ethiopia - see map). Many of these migrants walk through Egypt on a perilous journey to make it to Israel's border, where they cross illegally and enter Israel. Along they way, they are often aided by Bedouins, some of whom provide helpful support. But many are not as lucky and face all kinds of difficulties crossing through Egypt where they can wind up being jailed, attacked or even shot to death by Egyptians including Egyptian military officials or police.

Until recently, Israel's border with Egypt was not very secure. Migrant Africans have been crossing into Israel in all different ways, other than through the official border crossing stations. The Israeli government is now in the process of building a giant wall along the border to control immigration access, primarily as a reaction to this flood of illegal immigration.

Some monitoring groups have put the estimated number of African migrants reaching Israel at 1,500 to 2,000 per month, with estimates of a total of 60,000 now living in Israel, a country with a total population of approximately 7,800,000 of whom, close to 6 million are Jewish.

Many of the African migrants have congregated in the South Tel-Aviv neighbourhood of Hatikvah. According to Israeli law, the children of the migrants are able to attend school and many have been doing so. But since the parents are not legal immigrants, they are not given ID numbers and are therefore not entitled to work in Israel legally. They are not being treated as landed immigrants - though a few hundred have been treated as such. As a result, they are currently living in slum like conditions amidst a population that is very concerned about the threats to its public safety, security and its financial capacity to provide support to this growing number of newly arrived migrant Africans. As difficult as these conditions are for the African migrants who arrive, the migrants are also aware that Israel treats them much better than any of the surrounding Middle Eastern countries, though many would prefer to make it to Italy or France.

This issue has created a great deal of discussion and controversy recently in Israel, particularly after a few highly publicized incidents of criminal conduct involving migrant Africans and at least two brutal sexual assaults. The issue has occupied many of the news headlines, the airwaves on radio talk shows and political discussions, particularly, after some highly publicized crimes.

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu got the ball rolling by noting that 60,000 could soon turn into 600,000 and that could "threaten our existence as a Jewish and Democratic State." A few days later, Likud MK (Member of Knesset - the Israeli Parliament) Miri Regev called the Sudanese migrants "a cancer in our body." The Israeli Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai called for the detention and expulsion of all asylum seekers. The Attorney General, Yehudah Weinstein has asked for a court order to permit large scale deportation. So far, his request has been rejected though Israeli courts are still hearing these petitions.

Not surprisingly, some of these provocative, racially laced statements fostered an environment in which a group of 1,000 Israeli protesters turned up in the Hatikvah neighbourhood on Wednesday night May 23, 2012 to demand that the Africans be expelled. Some Sudanese and Eritreans were beaten up by some of the protesters. 17 Israeli were arrested. Protesters held viciously worded banners directed at illegal African immigrants.

This violence and hatred was roundly condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu. But the underlying issues are quite difficult. Israel cannot be expected to absorb hundreds of thousands of migrant Africans merely because they arrived at Israel's borders. At the same time, Israel is not about to send people back to places where they face a high risk of death because of political or military-civilian strife. Even if the main issue is starvation or disastrous economic conditions, rather than political fighting, civil war, or threatened genocide, there is still a compelling case to be made that a significant number of these migrants should be allowed to stay in Israel, even if only temporarily, until the African strife is resolved.

After all, many Israels know their history well and know that no country wanted to accept Jewish refugees who were trying to flee Europe in search of safety. Many Israelis feel that it is incumbent on Jewish people to demonstrate that they can address this type of issue more appropriately. Some other Israelis have responded by arguing that the current wave of migrant Africans are economic refugees who are seeking a better life - and that this is a very different category from people fleeing genocide. Moreover, they argue the UN and other international agencies, bodies and states must share this challenge and find a way to resettle these African migrants if they cannot be repatriated.

Israeli courts are hearing and adjudicating applications to deport or expel large numbers of these migrants. Some Knesset members have been calling for the full and immediate expulsion of all illegal migrants. But the source countries each present their own difficulties. Whether it is extremely dangerous conditions (as in the case of Eritrea) or countries that do not have diplomatic relationships with Israel (Sudan), it is simply not feasible to expect that Israel will
be able to carry out that type of mass repatriation (or expulsion).

Moreover, even if Israel could expel all of these migrants, there are a growing number of voices calling for Israel to find a way to absorb at least a significant number.

The additional goal with which Israel must contend is to ensure that Israel, as a Jewish state, continues to serve as a homeland, a haven and a place of refuge for Jewish people from around the world. Israel has absorbed Jewish refugees, in large numbers from Ethiopia, Yemen, the former Soviet Republic and other places. Israel has also absorbed and sheltered non-Jewish refugees from countries including Cambodia and others. But demographically, culturally and religiously, Israel is not in a position to grant hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish migrants landed immigrant status.

So how does Israeli reconcile the "freedom" for the people of Israel with the freedom sought by the African migrants? This has not yet been answered. There have been many different ideas thrown about, including the idea of running large refugee type camps in southern Israel or caravan housing communities until the problems in African blow over somewhat - but that could be generations and could require enormous financial contributions on Israel's part or simply absorbing and dispersing a certain number of migrants throughout the country rather than see them concentrated in one area. The key challenge will be to absorb at least a certain number in a way that allows them to get decent education, housing and healthcare and to truly become Israelis, while cognizant of the "mission statement" of the country of Israel to serve as a homeland for the Jewish people. And even significant absorption would still means tens of thousands of African migrants who Israel will not be able to absorb. The other countries of the world will have to assist with creative solutions to help the fleeing people of Africa. Even though Israel is closer to Africa than most European countries, it is a very small country and cannot be expected to address a disproportionately large share of this challenging problem.

Hopefully, sooner rather than later, the world and the African countries will tackle the real problem and will find a way to improve the situation in Africa and reduce or eliminate the need for so many people to flee.

An African migrant drives his car with a shattered window after protesters saw him on their way back from a rally against the flow of African migrants into Israel, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Hundreds of people gathered in south Tel Aviv Wednesday to protest against the government's handling of the flow of African migrants into Israel. Some of the demonstrators shattered a windshield of a vehicle in which three African migrants were travelling. Police arrested two people suspected of attacking a foreign worker during the protest. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Recent rapes blamed on African migrants have ignited a political and emotional backlash against their ballooning numbers, with Israelis and their leaders stridently — and in an alarming new development, violently — calling for their expulsion.

Israel, bound by an international refugees treaty it ardently promoted, doesn't seem to have that option, and the gap between rhetoric and reality threatens to send simmering social antagonisms boiling over into open conflict.

It has raised questions, relevant all over the developed world, about how much is owed to the impoverished migrants who manage to sneak in.

Over the past seven years, as many as 60,000 African migrants, most from Sudan and Eritrea, have slipped across Israel's border with Egypt, exploiting the lack of a physical barrier and widespread lawlessness in the Sinai Peninsula that has been one result of the fall last year of longtime Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Israel is erecting a barrier along the roughly 200 kilometers (125 miles) of border. While this work drags on, the migrants continue to arrive at a rate of about 1,000 a month, ragged and penniless, with some reporting being raped, tortured and extorted by the Bedouins who smuggle them through.

Some migrants are fleeing repressive regimes. Others are simply looking for a better life in a richer country. How many fit into each of those categories is a matter of deep disagreement between officials and migrant advocates.

Some Israelis worry that their national identity as a Jewish state is being threatened by unauthorized African migrants, who now make up less than 1 percent of Israel's population.

"It's the crumbling of the Zionist dream," Interior Minister Eli Yishai warned on Thursday.

Officials claim the overwhelming majority of the migrants are not bona fide refugees escaping persecution and war, but economic migrants looking for jobs. Israeli leaders use terms like "infiltrators," ''cancer" and "national scourge" to describe them, setting an inflammatory tone.

After the first rape was reported earlier this month, Yishai declared nearly all migrants to be criminals and said they should all be jailed pending deportation.

Days later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, "60,000 infiltrators are liable to become 600,000, and lead to the eradication of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

The issue of how to deal with them has also caused introspection about whether Israel, after a century of conflict with Arabs, has become a racist society.

"What disturbs me most is the racist atmosphere," social commentator Tom Segev said. "For several years now, Israel society has been moving in that direction, with all the anti-Arab motions in the parliament. . I think that this society is very sick now."

Others deny that the pushback is racist, finding it unreasonable that their country of about 8 million should be expected to throw open its doors to unlimited numbers of migrants.

Israel cannot simply kick out the Africans, as some politicians would seem to suggest. As an enthusiastic backer of a 1951 U.N. treaty drafted to address the plight of World War II refugees, it has pledged not to expel asylum-seekers to any country where they would be in danger.

"We're not going to pull back on our obligations under the refugee convention," said Daniel Solomon, legal adviser to Israel's population and immigration authority. "At the same time, other solutions will have to be looked for," like finding a third country to take them in.

Because most migrants come from Sudan, an enemy state, and Eritrea, a country with an abysmal human rights record, the line between refugee and economic migrants is blurred. So Israel has quietly allowed most migrants from those two countries to stay, without processing their asylum applications.

The U.S. State Department criticized this practice in a report on global human rights released Thursday, noting that of 4,603 new asylum applications in 2011, Israel rejected 3,692 and approved one. According to the report, asylum seekers without refugee status are not allowed to work and have no access to public health care, and that the government negatively terms the migrants "infiltrators".

Spokesmen for Israel's prime minister and Foreign Ministry had no comment on the report Friday.

Because of their precarious status, the migrants scrounge for whatever underpaid and insecure employment and volunteer health care they can find.

"Our objective is to have Israel host these people under proper conditions until the option arises for them to go home," said William Tall, the envoy of the U.N. refugee agency office in Israel.

The Africans began trickling into Israel after neighboring Egypt violently quashed a demonstration by a group of Sudanese refugees there in 2005, killing at least 20. The numbers surged as word spread of safety and jobs in Israel, a prosperous and liberal country reachable from Africa overland.

The swelling numbers have spawned slums. Fear and intolerance is mounting among locals, who accuse the migrants of stoking crime, including three recent rapes — even though police records show crime among the migrants is lower than among Israelis.

Firebombs were thrown recently at two buildings where migrants live, and a protest against them Wednesday in a poor southern Tel Aviv neighborhood where many Africans live turned violent. The crowd shattered windows of shops and cars belonging to Africans, police said, and a witness reported that protesters spat on migrants and cursed them. No one was hurt.

Bashir Abekker, 32, came to Israel four years ago to escape the war in Sudan's Darfur region. He thought he'd find safety, "but recently, I'm not safe here. I am afraid for my safety," he said. "After what happened (Wednesday), I was afraid to go out on the street to buy food."

On Thursday, Netanyahu condemned the violence. "I want to make it very clear that there is no room for the kinds of expressions and actions we saw last night," he said. "I say this both to public officials and to the residents of south Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand."

The Hotline for Migrant Workers advocacy group said the refugees are endangered by the "incitement" of politicians.

On the other side of the divide, neighborhood activist Dror Kahalani said the government is neglecting his already poor community to provide services for migrants, whose rising numbers terrify residents.

"I don't let my daughters go out unless I go with them," Kahalani said.

Prominent author and social commentator A.B. Yehoshua came to the defense of the migrants' Israeli neighbors. "We have to distinguish between economic migrants whom we don't have to accept, and the bona fide refugees who are suffering and face death if returned," he said.

For some, the violence against the migrants and calls for their expulsion are difficult to accept given the legacy of the Holocaust, when 6 million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators. They find it abhorrent that the Jewish state would expel people to face persecution elsewhere.

Others counter that following the mass murder of its own people as the world looked on, Israel has no more of an obligation to help others than the rest of the world does.

African refugees marching to Jerusalem

He's been stuck in the detention facility for 18 months now, since he crossed the border. This march was the first time he got to see Israel: “Very pretty, from what I saw."

“People were depressed, sitting in prison for so many months,” Munim said. “So we decided to go to the Knesset and the Supreme Court so they will understand we are refugees.

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"What are we supposed to do? If we agree to be placed in the new prison, we’ll be spending our entire life there. We want to learn Hebrew and the be part of Israeli culture. I just want people to understand that we’re also human beings,” he said.

I asked him if he’s not afraid of being caught the next day and sent back to prison. “When you have no choice, it doesn’t matter what happens. If they take us, we’ll go without violence. It was important for us to walk without shouting near the road. We wanted to send a humane message. I understand it’s the Israelis’ right to accept whomever they want, but they must understand our case is exceptional,” he said.

One of the African migrants’ leaders in south Tel Aviv, who has also come here, wants to have a photo taken with MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), chairman of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Workers.

“Do you know how many Facebook friends I have since this story started," she asked. “Refugees watch the Knesset channel, or read my Facebook posts using Google translate,” she said.

Rozin says she is encouraged by the protest march. “Listen, I have to say it’s amazing. It’s like having our own Mandela,” she says about the African leadership. “What happened with the Holot facility, is like an 'I told you' moment. It was the result of the idea to bypass the High Court of Justice. It's hard to believe. All these people want is to be heard.”

One of the activists who has been marching with the migrants since the morning said he asked some of them, "and they understand what it means to go back to the closed prison. They could also have disappeared on the way, but chose to walk as one. They refuse to be moved like cattle from one cage to the next.”

Honduran Tony Garcia, a senior official in the UN Refugee Agency, also showed up. “We’re concerned, and hope a good solution is found,” he said, as wafers are passed around in plastic plates. “We are now mostly listening to them, and we’ll see what happens.”

I try to write, but an activist beside me is explaining to her husband that she can't return home. She has got to stay with the asylum seekers, even though she can hardly stand after the long walk on Monday. Her worried husband wants her to head back, but in a muted whisper, she explains that she can't. “I can’t leave them, I’m staying here. I promise not to get arrested tomorrow.”

African migrants walk on a road after choosing to permanently leave their open detention facility, which began operating last week in the southern Israeli desert December 15, 2013. Reuters />African refugees marching to Jerusalem. December 16, 2013 Eliyahu Hershkovitz


Under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which proposed the establishment of two states in British Mandatory Palestine – a Jewish state and an Arab state – Jerusalem was to be an international city, neither exclusively Arab nor Jewish for a period of ten years, at which point a referendum would be held by Jerusalem residents to determine which country to join. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, including the internationalization of Jerusalem, but the Arabs rejected the proposal. [5]

On 15 May 1948, the day after Israel declared its independence, it was attacked by its Arab neighbours. Jordan seized East Jerusalem and the Old City. Israeli forces made a concerted attempt to dislodge them, but were unable to do so. By the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War Jerusalem was left divided between Israel and Jordan. The Old City and East Jerusalem continued to be occupied by Jordan, and the Jewish residents were forced out. Under Jordanian rule, half of the Old City's 58 synagogues were demolished and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was plundered for its tombstones, which were used as paving stones and building materials. [6]

This state of affairs changed in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War. Before the start of the war, Israel sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan, saying that Israel would not attack Jerusalem or the West Bank as long as the Jordanian front remained quiet. Urged by Egyptian pressure and based on deceptive intelligence reports, Jordan began shelling civilian locations in Israel, [7] to which Israel responded on 6 June by opening the eastern front. The following day, 7 June 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem.

Later that day, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared what is often quoted during Jerusalem Day: [8] [9]

This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples' holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity. [10]

The war ended with a ceasefire on 11 June 1967.

On 12 May 1968, the government proclaimed a new holiday – Jerusalem Day – to be celebrated on the 28th of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the divided city of Jerusalem became one. On 23 March 1998, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Day Law, making the day a national holiday. [11]

One of the themes of Jerusalem Day, based on a verse from the Psalms, is "Built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together" (Psalm 122:3). [12]

In 1977, the government advanced the date of Jerusalem Day by a week to avoid it clashing with Election Day. [13]

The slogan for Jerusalem Day 2007, celebrated on 16 May, [14] marking the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, was "Mashehu Meyuhad leKol Ehad" (Hebrew: משהו מיוחד לכל אחד ‎, 'Something Special for Everyone'), punning on the words meyuhad ( מיוחד , 'special') and me'uhad ( מאוחד , 'united'). To mark the anniversary, the approach to Jerusalem on Highway 1 was illuminated with decorative blue lighting, which remained in place throughout the year. [ citation needed ]

In 2015, Yad Sarah a non-profit volunteer organization began organizing a special tour specifically for residents who use wheelchairs, which focuses on Jerusalem history. [15]

The Yakir Yerushalayim ( יַקִּיר יְרוּשָׁלַיִם 'Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem') prize is awarded annually by the Jerusalem municipality on Jerusalem day. [ citation needed ]

50th anniversary

In 2017, the golden jubilee of Jerusalem Day was celebrated. During the course of the year many events marking this milestone took place in celebrations of the 50th Jerusalem Day.

Many events were planned throughout the year, marking the jubilee. The main theme of the celebrations is the "Liberation of Jerusalem". The celebrations began during Hanukkah 2016, at an official ceremony held at the City of David National Park in the presence of Minister Miri Regev, who is responsible for the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary. [16]

A logo was created for the jubilee and presented by the minister Miri Regev. [17]

Events During the Jubilee Year

The ceremony was held at the City of David National Park at the event the ancient "Pilgrims' Route", that led from the City of David to the Temple Mount during the Second Temple period, was unveiled. The ceremony was attended by Knesset members, mayors and the three paratroopers that were photographed by David Rubinger at the Western Wall in 1967. At the event, the Minister Miri Regev was quoted by the press as saying, "Mr. President Barack Obama, I am standing here, on Hanukka, on the same road on which my forefathers walked 2,000 years ago . No resolution in any international forum is as strong as the steadfast stones on this street." Noting several of the 14 countries that participated in the resolution – including New Zealand, Ukraine, Senegal, and Malaysia – the minister added, "no other people in the world has such a connection and link to their land." [18]

  • On 2 February 2017, the "14th World Rabbis Conference" was held in Jerusalem, which was marked by "50 years since the Liberation and Unification of Jerusalem"
  • On 17 March the Jerusalem Marathon was held, marking the 50th anniversary celebrations.
  • On 28 March, the National Bible Contest for Youth was held, marking 50 years since the liberation of Jerusalem
  • The Independence Day ceremony this year will mark the Jubilee celebrations.
  • Many groups from overseas are made pilgrimages to Jerusalem to honor the jubilee. [19][20]

Ceremonies and state events celebrating Jerusalem Day 2017

Many events were planned for the celebration, some are annual events – including the Memorial ceremony for the Ethiopian community on Mount Herzl and the Dance of Flags parade (on Wednesday, 24 May 2017 from 16.30) and the Student Day evening concert (Tuesday, 23 May 2017 19:00). Listed below is a selection focusing on the jubilee year celebrations: [21]

  • The Opening Event of the 50th anniversary of the Unification of Jerusalem – The event will be attended by the President of Israel, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Knesset, the Mayor and the President of the Supreme Court, with performances by the Israeli musicians. [22]
  • White Night – The annual celebration will include a concert marking the 50th anniversary of the city's re-unification, in which leading artists will collaborate with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Among the participants will be Miri Mesika, David Daor and Kobi Aflalo.
  • 50th Anniversary Jerusalem Day at the Tower of David Museum – The museum reception in the presence of the mayor. The project "50 Years 50 Faces" will be launched, reconstructing the history of the city through stories of residents of East and West Jerusalem. Performances by actors in the museum will bring to life significant figures from the city's past. [23]
  • State Assembly marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem – In the presence of the President of the State, the prime minister, ministers, the mayor, the chief of staff, the chief of staff and the bereaved families. [24]

While the day is not widely celebrated outside Israel, [2] and has lost its significance for most secular Israelis, [25] [26] [27] the day is still very much celebrated by Israel's Religious Zionist community [28] [29] with parades and additional prayers in the synagogue.

Religious observance

Religious Zionists recite special holiday prayers with Hallel. [3] [30] Although Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was reluctant to authorise its inclusion in the liturgy, [31] other scholars, namely Meshulam Roth and others who held positions in the Israeli rabbinate, advocated the reciting of Hallel with its blessings, regarding it as a duty to do so. Today, various communities follow differing practices. [32]

Some Haredim (strictly Orthodox), who do not recognise the religious significance of the State of Israel, do not observe Yom Yerushalayim. [33] [34] Rabbi Moshe Feinstein maintained that adding holidays to the Jewish calendar was itself problematic. [35]

In 2015, Koren Publishers Jerusalem published a machzor dedicated to observance of Jerusalem Day and Independence Day. [36]

On Jerusalem Day (1992), the Jerusalem Convention was signed, declaring the State of Israel's loyalty to the city. [ citation needed ]

On Yom Yerushalayim 5755 (1995) at the Ammunition Hill ceremony, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the chief of staff in the Six-Day War, expressed his allegiance to a unified Jerusalem, in a statement that came in response to the Right's claims that the Oslo plan would divide Jerusalem and build Highway 1 The seam line and between East and West Jerusalem, is in effect a declaration of the government's intention to set the border there. [ citation needed ]

Some elements of the left and of the Arab public in the State of Israel regard Jerusalem Day as a day marking the conquest of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, with the power [ clarification needed ] involved in their opinion. [37] In 2014, the Meretz political party submitted a bill to repeal the Jerusalem Day Law. [38]

There has been controversy pertaining to the celebration of Jerusalem Day. The settlement of Eastern Jerusalem and the claim of Jerusalem as a capital for the State of Israel is controversial among the left wing and the Arab population of Jerusalem. One of the celebrations marking Jerusalem Day is a youth parade with flags known as Dance of Flags, which begins at Gan Sacher, winds through the streets of downtown Jerusalem, threads through the old city and ends with a gathering for a final prayer at the Western Wall. [ clarification needed ] The parade is controversial, and violent interactions have been reported between Arabs and Israeli youth during the procession. [39]

In May 2015, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a petition to prevent the Jerusalem Day parade from marching through the Muslim sector of the city. The justices said, however, that police must arrest parade participants who shout racist and violent epithets such as "Death to the Arabs!" or commit violent acts. [40]

A ceremony is held on Yom Yerushalayim to commemorate the Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Eretz Israel. In 2004, the Israeli government decided to turn this ceremony into a state ceremony held at the memorial site for Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel on Mount Herzl. [41] [42]

Passport racism

For some people coming from other places in Palestine to pray in Jerusalem for the first time, it is not obvious that there is a community that lives a few meters away from one of the holiest Muslim sites. Their initial reaction when they learn about it is to say that these people are so lucky and blessed.

For African-Palestinians, however, this can occasionally be a blessing in disguise.

Living in the heart of the Old City means being a target of Israel’s constant attempts to drive Palestinians out of this place and erase Palestinian identity and existence. In this context, Israel systematically denies building permits to African-Palestinians living in the Old City.

Even minor restorations or the building of an additional room are banned, forcing people to smuggle basic construction materials into the neighborhood. Newly-built Israeli settlements in the city are quickly restored and expanded, while Palestinians are threatened with demolitions if they build one additional room or restore their houses.

Restrictions on building — combined with high levels of poverty and unemployment — have forced some members of the African community, particularly the younger generation, to look for residence outside the Old City. Many have moved to areas like Beit Hanina or Shuafat because it is extremely difficult to accommodate a growing family in the Old City.

This problem is faced by all Palestinians in the Old City. But one problem unique to African-Palestinians is that — unlike most Palestinians in Jerusalem — many of them do not have a Jordanian passport.

“My father carried a French passport which he gave up following Chad’s independence in 1960,” said Mahmoud Jiddah. “When he applied for a Jordanian passport — since Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule then — it took him more than four years to receive it … But even the fact that my father carried a Jordanian passport doesn’t mean that I could automatically attain one. I’ve only received a temporary passport a couple of years ago and it’s about to expire.”

Jiddah added that he has a list of 50 African-Palestinians from Jerusalem who are banned from receiving a Jordanian passport. He explained that this Jordanian policy of refusing to give passports to African-Palestinians has to do with considering them “strangers.”

He said: “Imagine — we’ve been living here for our entire lives and we’ve sacrificed everything for Jerusalem and the Jordanian authorities consider us strangers. But when they ruled over Jerusalem in 1948, they suddenly became the kings.”

African-Palestinians are forced to travel using a laissez-passer, which means they are not allowed to visit Arab countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations. Alternatively they are left with the option of applying for a Palestinian Authority or international passport which could jeopardize their residency status in Jerusalem. The other option left is to apply for an Israeli passport, which the community strongly rejects.


Why is Jerusalem important? The Guardian.
History of Jerusalem: Timeline for the History of Jerusalem. Jewish Virtual Library.
Brief history of Jerusalem. Jerusalem Municipality.
History of Jerusalem from Its Beginning to David. Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies.
What makes Jerusalem so holy? BBC News.
What is Jerusalem? Vox Media.
What Is the Temple Mount, and Why Is There So Much Fighting Around It? The Blaze.
Five things you need to know about al-Aqsa. Al Jazeera.
Sacred Journeys: Jerusalem. PBS.
2 Israeli police officers killed in shooting in Jerusalem’s Old City. CNN.
6 Reasons Why Jerusalem’s Old City Has Once Again Enflamed the Region. TIME.

African refugees plan march on Jerusalem amid anger at Israeli dentention plans

African asylum seekers vowed to defy Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, on Tuesday by staging a dramatic mass march to Jerusalem in protest at draconian new laws allowing them to be detained indefinitely.

The pledge came as thousands of demonstrators from Sudan and Eritrea demonstrated in Tel Aviv for the third day running over Israel's refusal to treat them as refugees rather than economic migrants.

The knesset, the Israeli parliament, last month passed legislation enabling the authorities to detain illegal "infiltrators" for up to one year without charge. It also opened a new "open" detention centre under a strict regime in an isolated spot in the Negev desert designed to house up to 9,000 people. Some 150 inmates at the new facility, known as Holot, have started a hunger strike in protest at their treatment.

The new measures are part of a concerted campaign to persuade an estimated 54,000 asylum-seekers to "voluntarily" return to their home countries.

An African migrant boy holds a sign near Tel Aviv's Levinsky park on the third day of protests against Israel's detention policy (RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

The flow of African asylum-seekers to Israel - which began in 2006 - came to stop last year after the completion of a vast security fence on the country's border with Egypt's Sinai region, which had been used as a transit point.

At a demonstration on Tuesday in Levinski Square in Tel Aviv's impoverished southern suburbs - home to many African migrants - a procession of speakers said returning to their war-torn countries would endanger their lives and called on international agencies to pressure Israel to treat them as genuine refugees.

They also accused Mr Netanyahu's government of forgetting Israel's past as a haven for persecuted Jewish refugees from Europe - with some poignantly describing how they had escaped genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

One man from Darfur, who described himself as a genocide survivor, hung a placard arouund his neck which read: "We are not Filistins [Palestinians] to stay in Israel forever."

African refugees plan march on Jerusalem amid anger at Israeli dentention plans (ARIEL SCHALIT/AP)

"One of the reasons we came to Israel is because of its history, not because it's the same history but because it has some of the same points," said Mutasim Ali, a demonstration organiser.

"But we came here and found that everything is completely the opposite. We have told them many times that we are genocide survivors and they need to learn from history and act according to the Geneva Convention [on refugees]."

Mr Ali said he had escaped Sudan after being imprisoned for political activism only to spend another four-and-a-half months in detention in Israel after being arrested as an illegal immigrant.

Dawit, 27, fled his native Eritrea where he was studying marine microbiology after being to do indefinite army service. He first went to Ethiopia but says the primitive conditions in a refugee camp there drove him to leave for Egypt. He eventually fled from there fearing that its close diplomatic ties to the Sudanese government would lead to his arrest.

"I thought Israel was a democratic country and could save my life but I'm still living in a very bad situation because the authorities haven't checked my asylum request," he said, recalling that he spent three months in detention after entering Israel. "One of the things that brought us here was that we knew the history of the Jews meant they knew more than anyone what a refugee was. So our expectation was that they would treat us as refugees. We've been disappointed. We think maybe they have forgotten."

Bsow Ebrahim, 30, said he was forced to leave his native Nuba Mountain region of Sudan because he had fought in the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army. "I left because my life was in danger," he said.

"In 2011, war broke out and the government started killing everybody who was part of the rebel group and their supporters. If I hadn't left, I would have been killed too. We are surprised at the way the Israeli government deals with us. We thought we would be treated with respect but after I arrived here, I had to sleep outdoors in this park for the first two months."

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has criticised Israel for labelling the asylum-seekers as "infiltrators" without examining their asylum claims - warning that it could amount to a violation of refugee conventions.

An woman holds an Israeli flag during the rally (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)

The demonstrators - who started their protests on Sunday outside Tel Aviv city hall - say they will occupy Levinski Square indefinitely if they are denied police permission to march to Jerusalem, where they say they will petition the Knesset.

They also pledged to continue a workers strike. Despite being denied official work permits, many of them hold down jobs illegally in hotels, restaurants and as cleaners.

Mr Netanyahu, who has warned that the influx of African migrants threatens Israel's Jewish character, has insisted he will not bow to the protesters and continues to reject their claims to political asylum.

"Demonstrations and strikes won't do any good," he told members of his Likud party on Monday.

"Just as we've succeeded in blocking off illegal infiltrations thanks to the security fence, we're determined to send back those who made it in before the border was closed. These are not refugees. they are illegal immigrants who've come looking for work."

Watch the video: Israel issues ultimatum to African migrants (January 2022).