Israelis wave flags as they walk across the closed Palestinian Damascus Gate plaza during the Jerusalem Day flag march, May 18, 2023.

Credit: 

Matan Golan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Blog Post

Perspective: “The Worst Day of Every Year”

The day I discovered about “Jerusalem Day” was exactly 15 years ago.

I remember that day and that year, because without any warning or expectation, tears were streaming down my face.

I was surprised to see myself weeping in public. That hadn’t happened before.

Out of nowhere, and with no foreseeable logic, I was standing in what appeared like the loneliest spot. I was by myself. In all directions were crowds of people chanting pure rage and hatred. They couldn’t even see me. It’s a surprise they didn’t walk all over me, although it felt as if they did.

It was so out of character to be quietly standing there, like a zombie. I hadn’t seen it coming. Before the event, it had seemed like a normal day.

But I somehow ended up there by coincidence, not knowing what “Jerusalem Day” was—until I would know and wouldn’t forget that this would become the worst day of every year.

Blog Post On “Jerusalem Day,” Israeli Marchers Chant “Death to Arabs”

At the annual Flag March through Jerusalem, Israeli violence and threats are commonplace while celebrating the city’s conquest.

In all directions were crowds of people chanting pure rage and hatred.

Standing across from Bab al-Amud, thousands of people were aggressively waving the Israeli flag. Most of them were English speakers, but they weren’t saying things we learned at school. Things like, “excuse me,” and “thank you,” and “please.” Rather, they were screaming out: “Death to them, death to them, death to them all.”

There were so many of them. They looked angry, and those laughing had a toxic type of smile drawn on their faces; the type that isn’t natural—the type that is full of contempt.

They were screaming out “Death to Arabs,” “This is our place,” “Kick them out.”

Why would you take the people out of the place? I wondered. The people here, whom I see every single day except for this day, are what this place is. And who are you to show up once a year to remove the place.

Whom do you so violently want to kick out? The women selling herbs? The little kids stealing candy? The men selling underwear? Most of them are happy to sell you products. They can share their tea with you, too. They would tell you their stories. They’d speak to you in your language, too, if you’re only a little curious . . .

A Palestinian villager sells herbs inside Damascus Gate, June 2021.

A Palestinian farmer from a rural area around Jerusalem sells her produce in the area just inside Damascus Gate, June 2021.

Credit: 

Ahmad Daghlas for Jerusalem Story

“Death to the Arabs!!” They viciously forced themselves into Bab al-Amud, storming in a way that could not be normal. They were surrounded by hundreds of police—also in blue and white. The place looked unrecognizable. It looked so abnormal.

I had been trying to figure out why I cried that day. Fifteen years later, I found some answers: I would realize that there were so many others who, just like me, cried on Jerusalem Day. Those were people whom I never not in a million years would have envisioned to be standing in the middle of the street crying.

“I found myself crying,” they’d tell me. “Why do you think that is?” I’d ask.

“I found myself crying,” they’d tell me.

I got different answers. Some of them said, “It’s been too sad to see that much hatred and aggression.” Others said, “It’s too violent—and to see those young boys and girls with so much contempt is unbearable.” Others said, “Because they want to destroy the city that they don’t know how to love.”

Perhaps the “dance of flags” is rather a burial of everything that exists and potentially coexists in this city. It is a call to death. So rotten that it takes out any chance for humor or a shared smile. Instead it appears as if those living or who ever lived in this city have evaporated, leaving no one but a single person standing in the middle of this circus, with tears streaming down one’s face.

Tagged under: