Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Left, Jerusalem Day, Damascus Gate, 1968 ( משה מילנר/לע"מ).
Right, Rikudgalim, 2018 (Kobby Dagan/shutterstock)

The 2021 Jerusalem flag march never happened. There was no celebration of the miracles restoring Jerusalem to the Jewish people. No dancing in the streets with flags. And none of this had anything to do with the pandemic.

The cancellation of the Jerusalem flag march was, instead, a reenactment of David versus Goliath. But this time, Little David, Israel, was not winning. It was Goliath, the Arabs, who had the upper hand. This in spite of the blood we shed in 1967, and despite the fact that the Jews are, 54 years on, still sovereign over Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Day is that day on which we celebrate the miracles that made the Jewish people once more sovereign over the Holy City. As is the case with any people celebrating the liberation of the places they hold dear, anywhere in the world, a parade is in order, complete with flags. We call our Jerusalem flag march, the Rikudgalim, a contraction of “dance” and “flags” and it is the one time of year when Jews can dance, sing, and mingle freely in Jerusalem neighborhoods populated in the main by Arabs. But this year the flag march never happened.

Not because the miracle of little David beating the giant Goliath was any less appreciated than in former years, but because Hamas used the pretext of the proposed Sheikh Jarrah evictions to make war on the Jews. Not because Hamas thought it could win, but because the terror organization wanted to be seen as the supposed defenders of Jerusalem by the Arabs who live under the Palestinian Authority. To this end, Hamas provoked riots on the Temple Mount, damaging the Al-Aqsa mosque and setting trees on fire. They also attempted to lynch Jewish drivers in Jerusalem; torched cars, shops, and synagogues in mixed Arab-Jewish cities; and shot 4,360 rockets into Israel’s most densely populated urban centers.

This is how Hamas does it: puts on a show of might for the people, hoping for the ultimate one-state solution—as per their charter—in which both Abbas and the Jews (God forbid) are rendered moot. The Hamas show of 2021 was definitely a show, not completely dissimilar from the sovereignty show we Jews put on during our annual flag march in neighborhoods we normally are too afraid to visit, and at a time when we are not free to pray at our holiest site—the Temple Mount—in our holiest city.

And still, even a show can be quite effective. The proof is in the pudding for Hamas. The Mufti of Jerusalem, seen as a puppet of the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, was thrown out of the Al-Aqsa mosque during his Friday sermon, because he wouldn’t congratulate Hamas.

The proof is also in the pudding for the Jews. Call it provocative, but that yearly Jerusalem flag march, the Rikudgalim, gives us the courage, one year at a time, to hope that one day, Jews will walk, heads held high and free of fear, anywhere at all in Jerusalem. The Rikudgalim reminds us that one day; we, the indigenous people of Israel will indeed be sovereign over Jerusalem in every sense, and that no one will ever be able to question that fact again—that one day every Jew will feel free to pray aloud from permitted areas on Har Habayit, the site of our holy Temple Mount, where the Jordanian Islamic Waqf reigns supreme.

In 1968, we held a wondrous Jerusalem flag march with thousands of Israeli Jews thronging the streets. Since that time, the parade has become a more modest event, in which mainly National Religious youth take part. Others have been vocal in agitating for the parade to be canceled for good, saying that it is cruel to the Arabs who live in the Old City. “It is like rubbing our Jewish victories in their faces,” say the left, comprised in the main of left-wing secular Israeli Jews. “At least,” say they, “let us give them the dignity to suffer their shame in private.”

IDF parade in front of Damascus Gate, 1968 (photo credit: Moshe Milner)


Even some religious Jews on the right have come to feel this way. “We have no need for a parade,” they say. “We know to whom the spoils fell, to whom Jerusalem truly belongs. Why do we need this display of braggadocio that is so hurtful to our Arab population that is also under the protection of our Democratic state?”

These people are missing the point. Yes, there are the youth who take part in the Rikudgalim precisely to show the Arabs “what’s what,” rather than strictly to celebrate the restoration of our treasure, Jerusalem, after thousands of years. But most of the marchers are just celebrating Jerusalem, and happy—thanks to the massive security presence surrounding this event—to see a part of the city they usually are unable to visit. And make no mistake: every part of Jerusalem is precious to us, even when others are living there. We feel it is a mitzvah to walk in every part of our city and country. So of course, it is a very special day and event.

With all that was happening with the failed Hamas war on the Jews/attempted PA takeover, the parade was of course, postponed. Once the Hamas hostilities died down, some brave souls did attempt to reschedule the Rikudgalim, the Jerusalem flag march, for Thursday of this week. But it was a foregone conclusion that our Israeli leaders would nix the event, based on the proposed parade route which part Damascus Gate. How could the Rikudgalim not include Damascus Gate, gate to the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem? It is the one time of year we get to see this part of the city—revel in every inch of Jerusalem—the jewel in the God-given crown of the Jewish people, Israel.

What is it that prevents the Jewish people from celebrating the liberation of their city with flags? Is it institutional laziness? Yes. The police and city officials don’t necessarily want to deal with the fuss and expense of renewed violence.

Is it the fear that violence will break out countrywide? Yes. And it was under this pretext that Defense Minister Benny Gantz put the pressure on the police to cancel the parade. Something every right wing adult in Israel knew he would do. Because he is on the side of the left. The people who placate and appease.

Would the Rikudgalim have been likely to cause violence to break out at this juncture? Very possibly, as any reasonable person might conclude. The Arabs do indeed see Jews bearing flags while marching and singing in the streets of Jerusalem as a reason to shoot and stab and maim and kill. And currently, after so many years of literally getting away with murder, they have the courage of their convictions.

But in the years following 1967, as I for one recall, they were cowed. They were subservient. They’d been licked, embarrassingly so, by a military midget: Israel. The Arabs were shamed and silenced for more than a decade, and with few exceptions, they behaved like a people who’d had their comeuppance and should just be grateful to be allowed to live unmolested wherever they choose to pay rent (and in the case of Sheikh Jarrah, even where they don’t). Violence was way, way down.

Over time, however, the left and the international community emboldened the Arabs, made them forget how bad they lost, and encouraged them to think they could take Jerusalem back, or at least pretend to do so and cause a lot of death and property damage in the process. This is precisely why the parade, the Rikudgalim, is so important.

The Arabs are emboldened. And their hutzpah grows greater with every passing year. Their pockets filled with EU gold, they are welcomed in the inner chambers of the ICC, and even Iran comes to line Hamas pockets with cash and weapons. The US, meanwhile, seeks to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, setting the stage for internecine war, while at the same time, to paraphrase Tom Lehrer, “Everybody hates the Jews.”

There’s a reason people the world over, take one day in the year to march in their cities with flags. Parades and marches are a statement: This is our march, our statement. We made it ours, and so it shall always be.

But when the march doesn’t take place, this too, is a statement. And it’s definitely the wrong message to send:

“The march is important as an expression of our sovereignty over Jerusalem and if the march was cancelled, due to pressures from the Arab enemy, this shows that maybe in theory we have sovereignty in Jerusalem but not in practice,” said Nadia Matar, co-chairman of both Women in Green and the Sovereignty Movement (Ribonut). “This policy of fear and surrender to Arab threats and terror will lead to the re-division of Jerusalem, G-d forbid!”

If parades and marches are important everywhere else in the world as an expression of patriotism, I’d venture to say they are even more important, perhaps existentially so, in Jerusalem. Patriotism is an outer expression of what is in our hearts, part love, part pride, and yes, even part braggadocio, a display. The Rikudgalim is a critical expression of Israeli patriotism, an annual event that does not distinguish between bits and parts of the city. The Rikudgalim declares that ALL of Jerusalem, is ours.

So yes. Is the Rikudgalim ostentatious, a show? Yes, it’s a display, for crying out loud. And displays are in your face. And in OURS.

A display? Sure. The very best kind. One that means no harm to anyone. On the contrary: every citizen of Israel, no matter their religion, has equal rights and opportunities. The Rikudgalim reinforces the notion that the good guys are in charge, the terrorists vanquished. Law and order shall reside among the people, all of the people, of Israel. Because the Jews sit in government in Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State of Israel.

This is distinct from the false show of Hamas pretending to defend Jerusalem by showering rockets on Ashkelon in order to woo voters away from Abbas. We actually DID successfully defend Jerusalem. And now it is ours. Our flag march says that to Hamas, to the PA, to all the antisemites of the world, but most of all, to us. And we desperately need that reminder—that we are the rightful inhabitants of Jerusalem and its rightful sovereign.

Some things you just don’t share. And with the most important things, you don’t let people play with it or borrow it. You don’t let it out of your sight.

And the more we walk in the streets of Jerusalem, in EVERY street of Jerusalem, the more they’ll know it’s ours. And the consequences be damned. She’s worth it, Jerusalem. She’s just that good.

Nadia Matar can tell you about the importance of walking the streets of Jerusalem, and what it means. “Twenty-seven years ago we started our annual walk around the walls of the Old City on Tisha B’Av. In 1994 we asked for a police permit and were denied. We went to the Supreme Court with the help of Attorney Aviad Hacohen, who claimed that if Jerusalem is united—then there is no reason Jews should not walk anywhere in Jerusalem. We won and the rest is history—we have been walking there for the past 27 years,” says Matar, “But after the latest capitulations by the authorities—who knows what will be with our walk?”

Matar is absolutely right. The cancellation of the parade would set a precedent. Not just for next year’s Rikudgalim, but for other Jerusalem events as well, eventually spreading to yet other events in other parts of the country. That is how it happens. How they slice away bits and pieces of our country, our city, our flesh.

Maybe that’s why there are still rumors the parade could yet happen. But they are only rumors, and vague rumors at that. There is little hope.

That’s a pity, for not a small number of holy Jews died that we might dance, sing, and mingle freely in all of the streets of Jerusalem. 

They would want us to celebrate: a celebration is definitely in order. So we'll do the most we can do this year. But next year?

Next year and every year, in Jerusalem.

UPDATE: One minute before this published, Bibi threw this hot football into Bennett's lap--and of course, the caveat is that the march will probably still not be allowed anywhere near Damascus Gate. From the Government Press Office:

Security Cabinet Statement

(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ascribed great importance to reaching a broad agreement on the holding of the march; therefore, he called a recess in the Security Cabinet meeting and turned to Defense Minister Benny Gantz in order to reach an agreement. The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister submitted the following decision, which was approved by the Cabinet: The march will be held on Tuesday, 15 June 2021, in a format to be agreed upon by the police and the organizers of the march.





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