The demonstration today in Jerusalem in support of Palestinian independence was attended by anywhere from 2000 to 4500 people (according to a Facebook post), who marched from the Old City’s Jaffa Gate to Sheikh Jarrah. I was there and organizers announced 3,000 attendees at the end, but Channel 2’s evening news reported “over 1000.” I suppose they’re playing it safe, but after tramping through burning sun on a winding walk through Jerusalem’s famous Friday crush, with people singing, drumming, cheering, dancing and laughing, that conservative estimate has a cynical ring.
Here are a few photos.
The goal of this demonstration was very clear: The creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Many expressed a clear demand to the Israeli leadership: recognize that state. Stickers such as this one were common – for some reason, they tended to appear on people’s backs.
Typical for Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement’s Friday demonstrations, flags and good cheer were in abundance; but by design, Israeli flags are very rare.
Personally, I think it’s time for all Israelis to realize that the creation of an independent Palestinian state is in Israel’s best interest. The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement can do what it wants, but wouldn’t it be powerful if a far greater range of Israelis recognized this logic, and joined our demand for pragmatic decisions from their leaders, including in the name of Israel and with Israeli flags?
At various points, the march highlighted the gap I sometimes feel between the activists and the East Jerusalem residents who observe, or sometimes cheer – but it feels as if they aren’t quite a part of this struggle.
Indeed, toward the end, as the marchers – who are largely Israeli – gathered in the traditional square in Sheikh Jarrah, a group of Palestinian teenagers gazed awkwardly at them. When I asked one of them if he was part of the demonstration, Muhammad, 18 years old, said he was not – he was just living his life. “I’ve gotten used to Israelis,” he said. Although Palestinian statehood would be a good thing, he responded when pressed, he didn’t have time to join the demonstration, because he had a coffee shop to run.
The demonstration also received support from some very special ladies, at least I thought they were special:
A number of marchers called on the international community to join the struggle.
Maybe there were many other pragmatic politicians there, but the actual crowd size was so large that they were swallowed up in the masses. Maybe; but it’s not likely. For now, it seems, vision, activism and a way out of the quagmire will be left to the few thousand Israelis and Palestinians who are willing to confront hot Fridays and apathy to demand solutions.