JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli counter-protesters handing out “flowers for peace” outside Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday were met with harsh reactions by ultra-nationalist Israelis and religious conservative participants of Jerusalem Day’s “flag march.”Both left-wing and conservative Israeli youth groups came together on Sunday to protest what they called the “extremist” celebrations taking place in the Old City, as thousands of ultranationalist Israelis marched to celebrate the “reunification” of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War.
An Israeli peace activist carrying flowers looks on as extremist Jewish marchers celebrate Jerusalem Day on June 6, 2016. (MaanImages/Yumna Patel)
Palestinians meanwhile commemorated the occasion as "Naksa Day," meaning setback
, marking the 49th anniversary of the Israeli invasion that displaced some 300,000 Palestinians. The Israeli march through the Old City's Muslim Quarter also coincided with the eve of the holy month of Ramadan.
Members of Noam Olami, a Conservative Jewish Zionist youth group in Israel, told Ma’an they were giving out roses in counter-protest “in order to show a message of peace and friendship.”As they stood outside Damascus Gate, where thousands of Israelis were entering the Old City, the teenagers were confronted by angry paraders condemning their actions, saying “this is our country, we don’t want to share.”
A young Israeli peace activist passing out flowers is confronted by angry extremist Jewish youth from the Jerusalem Day parade group outside Damascus Gate on June 6, 2016. (MaanImages/Yumna Patel)
“The reaction most of the time is very strong and very bad,” said one of the teens from Noam. “A lot of Israelis are angry at us for what we do, they don’t support us, but we keep doing it.”
Just steps from the members of Noam were members of the leftist group Tag Meir, meaning “Light tag," whose name plays on the Hebrew phrase “tag mecheir” (price tag), which is commonly used by right-wing Israeli extremists calling for revenge for “terrorist attacks." Mina, a Jewish resident of Jerusalem and member of Tag Meir, stood at the entrance of the Muslim quarter, passing out flowers to Palestinians “to wish them Ramadan Kareem.”“We just want to show them, we don’t all hate them," she said, emphasizing that the “racist march” wasn’t just about Jerusalem, but it also "marks 49 years of Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories.”
"We also give the flowers to the Jews in the march to show them there is another way," she continued. "The occupation is unacceptable, and we are making all kinds of efforts to make it stop."
Israeli counter-protester hands out flowers outside Damascus Gate on Jerusalem Day, June 6, 2016. (MaanImages/Yumna Patel)