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Hundreds mark 13 years of protests against the wall in Bil’in

The village that managed to unite the world behind the spirit of nonviolent Palestinian protest marks more than a decade of not only tear gas, night raids and tragedy, but also co-resistance and victories in the struggle against settlements, the separation barrier and the occupation.

By Oren Ziv/

Some 500 demonstrators marked 13 years of struggle against the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bil’in on Friday. The demonstrators — Palestinians, Israelis, and international solidarity activists — marched toward the wall, where Israeli border police fired tear gas at them. Several activists suffered from tear gas inhalation, and one international activist was arrested.

The demonstrations in Bil’in have taken place every Friday since February 2005, when Israeli bulldozers first arrived to start clearing olive trees to make room for the wall. Following the weekly prayer, demonstrators march from the center of the village to the separation barrier, built on the village’s land. The demonstrators, some of whom were dressed as characters from the movie “Avatar” or as Native Americans, marched toward the wall alongside a tractor carrying a massive “13,” decorated with pictures from the history of the struggle in Bil’in. Upon reaching the separation wall, several activists attempted to climb it, prompting the arrival of the border police who fired tear gas directly at the demonstrators. Among those injured by the tear gas barrage was also a journalist.


When the wall was first built, it expropriated some 1,950 dunams of the village’s agricultural land. Following years of struggle and a Supreme Court ruling, the wall was repositioned in 2011, returning some 600 dunams of land back to the village, but over 1,000 remain on the other side of the wall, near the ultra-orthodox settlement of Modi’in Ilit. Bil’in’s residents continue to demand the return of all of their land.

Winning back hundreds of dunams of land made Bil’in into a worldwide symbol of popular resistance to the separation barrier, settlements, and military rule in the occupied territories. But the village also suffered great losses. Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister directly at the chest of Bassem Abu Rahma, killing him. His sister, Jawaher, suffocated to death from tear gas inhalation. Thousands of protesters have required medical attention from Israeli crowd control measures over the decade-plus of demonstrations and hundreds have been arrested.


The International Court of Justice in the Hague...

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Pushed out by Israel, asylum seekers find only limbo in Uganda

By Oren Ziv

KAMPALA, Uganda — “Why should Uganda take in the people Israel doesn’t want?” asks Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, a Ugandan member of parliament who joined us in a cafe in central Kampala.

“If they’re being sent by the UN, they’ll be treated like all refugees, in a temporary manner because of the problems in their countries,” Nganda continues. He insisted on meeting us, after hearing that a small delegation of Knesset members was visiting his country from Israel. “Uganda will not become a dumping ground that whoever thinks they cannot host people — that you throw them in another country.”

We had just left Rwanda — with many questions. One thing, however, had become very clear: Rwanda is not a final destination for the refugees Israel is sending there. There is a well-oiled machine that pushes them out of the country as soon as possible. Of the several thousand asylum seekers that Israel has already deported to Rwanda, we are told that only eight remain there. The rest crossed the border into neighboring Uganda.

A sense of freedom

The short flight from Kigali, the Rwandan capital, drops us off in the dark, dilapidated airport at Entebbe, Uganda. From there, we take a van straight to Kampala, where we stay for the next few days. Our small delegation is made up of members of Knesset Mossi Raz and Michal Rozin of Meretz, two of their spokespeople, refugee rights attorney Asaf Weitzen, and myself.

Our plan is to trace the path of the asylum seekers whom Israel plans to deport — and those it has already pushed out — and try to learn any information we can about the secret agreements reportedly reached between Israel and both Rwanda and Uganda. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments deny that any such deals even exist.

In Uganda we do not sense the same fear that had seemed to grip Rwanda, where people were reluctant to speak to foreigners for fear of repercussions from the security forces. It had been impossible to take photos or video in cafes, where the number of security personnel and metal detectors would put even Israel to shame. In contrast, the chaos, colorful tumult, and congested roads in Kampala give off a sense of freedom.

Foreigners in a strange country

We arrive at Najana Kombi, a crowded refugee neighborhood without paved roads. Far from the city center,...

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Hundreds of asylum seekers march to desert prison to protest deportations

Hundreds held in Israel’s desert detention facility march to nearby Saharonim Prison after seven asylum seekers were transferred and imprisoned there indefinitely — for refusing to leave the country. 

By Oren Ziv /

Hundreds of asylum seekers detained in Holot, Israel’s desert detention facility for African asylum seekers, marched to nearby Saharonim Prison on Thursday after seven asylum seekers were imprisoned there for refusing to be sent an unnamed country in Africa, widely presumed to be Rwanda, as part of a “voluntary” deportation program. The demonstrators chanted “We are refugees not criminals,” “We are human beings,” “Bring back our brothers,” “Stop the deportations,” and “We are not for sale.”

Israel is giving Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers an impossible choice: leave for a third country where they are not guaranteed any legal status, or be imprisoned in Israel — indefinitely.


The march comes a day after 700 asylum seekers detained in Holot began a hunger strike to protest the transfer of the seven asylum seekers, who were moved to Saharonim without being allowed to pack their belongings. Two of them are survivors of torture camps in the Sinai Desert, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. Israeli authorities had previously stated that victims of torture would be exempt from the deportation program.

In the coming weeks, many more of the asylum seekers detained in Holot will be transferred to the Saharonim Prison and imprisoned indefinitely, or until they agree to leave the country.


Asylum seekers protesting outside of the Saharonim Prison, joined by dozens of Israeli activists, attempted to submit a letter to the prison authorities, demanding the authorities release the imprisoned asylum seekers. The prison personnel, however, refused to accept the letter.

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Journalists, diplomats kicked out of Ahed Tamimi's trial

Despite Ahed Tamimi’s request for her trial to be open to the public, military judge rules that it will take place behind closed doors.

By Oren Ziv

Dozens of diplomats, journalists, photographers, and supporters arrived at the Ofer Military prison Tuesday morning for the opening hearing in the trial of Ahed Tamimi, the 17 year old from Nabi Saleh. The judge, however, ruled that the trial would take place behind closed doors to protect Ahed’s interests, ordering everyone in the courtroom, except for Ahed’s family members to leave.

Tamimi was arrested on December 19 when the army raided her home in the middle of the night, following the publication of a video showing her attempting to push armed Israeli soldiers off of her family’s porch. She has been imprisoned since then. A military court denied bail to Ahed and her mother, Nariman, who was also arrested, ruling that they would remain in prison until the end of their trials.

Nariman was arrested the day after Ahed and is charged with incitement for livestreaming the video, which later went viral.

Ahed Tamimi faces 12 different charges in her indictment, regarding five different incidents. The charges related to the video are assault of a soldier, disrupting the work of a soldier, and incitement. That video was filmed shortly after soldiers shot Mohammed Tamimi, Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, in the head with a rubber-coated bullet, severely wounding him; part of his skull was removed, and he was in a coma for several days.

The trials of minors are typically held behind closed doors to protect the minors. According to Attorney Gaby Lasky, who is representing Ahed, the best defense would be to open the trial to public scrutiny. Lasky intends to appeal the decision, arguing that it is Ahed’s right to decide whether the trial will take place behind closed doors or will be open to the public. Ahed was said to be planning to read a public statement at the hearing, which was made impossible by the judge’s decision.

“The court understands that this trial interests many people outside of the courtroom, that people know that her [Ahed’s] rights are being violated and that this trial is entirely unnecessary,” Lasky said following the judge’s decision. “The way to keep the story out of view of the public is to close the doors.”

“All of the proceedings until now were open to the public,” Lasky added. “Closed door...

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Sent to Rwanda by Israel: 'We have no food or work. Don't come here'

Ahead of a mass planned deportation, +972 Magazine joins two members of Knesset on a trip to Rwanda and Uganda to investigate what happens to the asylum seekers Israel is sending there. The one thing that remained most elusive: a future for asylum seekers pushed out of Israel.

By Oren Ziv

KIGALI, Rwanda — A dark cloud of ambiguity and fear has settled over Rwanda in the past few days. According to workers in international humanitarian organizations, the protests against the deportation of asylum seekers, held outside the country’s embassies in Israel and across the world, have put pressure on the government. For years, President Paul Kagame’s tyrannical regime has tried to rebrand itself in both Africa and across the world, following the genocide that took place here over 20 years ago. Accusations of abuse toward African asylum seekers aren’t helping.

For years I have been monitoring the situation of asylum seekers in Israel: since the first ones came to Israel from Darfur in 2005, through the rising tensions in south Tel Aviv, the establishment of Holot detention center, and various protest movements. Over the past few weeks I have stood with them in hours-long lines at Interior Ministry offices in and around Tel Aviv.

Most of those with whom I spoke told me they prefer prison over deportation to a “third country,” namely Rwanda or Uganda. While Israel claims it has reached an agreement with the former, the Rwandan government has repeatedly denied signing any deal to receive refugees deported from Israel. Past experience, along with various remarks made by the authorities, signal that Rwanda is the main destination.

While activists and asylum seekers protested outside embassies and consulates around the world, I headed for the airport with Meretz MKs Michal Rozin Mossi Raz, and refugee attorney Asaf Weitzen, in order to see for ourselves what is happening in those third countries, to which thousands of asylum seekers have already departed, and to which thousands will soon be deported.

“We have come to educate ourselves and make every effort possible to stop this shameful deportation, says Raz. “I am willing to go anywhere in the world to expose and stop this shameful act.”

As we land in Kigali, it is hard not to think about the journey of asylum seekers who “voluntarily left” Israel. Several thousand Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers in recent years have accepted a $3,500 incentive from Israel...

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'They told me to go to a third country. I won't go. I'll go to jail.'

Israel begins issuing deportation notices to African asylum seekers: leave the country within two months, or face indefinite imprisonment. 

By Oren Ziv

Two hundred of them arrived in the early morning hours on Sunday, gathering in an industrial area in the mostly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, just outside of Tel Aviv. They arrived on foot from the main road, or by costly taxis. Now, they stand in a parking lot, amidst parked trucks and piles of garbage. They are here, outside the Interior Ministry’s main office, to submit asylum requests or renew their visas, which the Israeli government requires them to do every two months.

At the Interior Ministry’s office on Salemeh Street in south Tel Aviv, African asylum seekers often wait for days in long lines, overnight and in the cold rain, to enter the building. But here in Bnei Brak, most of the refugees do not spend the night.

An Eritrean tea vendor volunteers to hand out numbers that she writes on pieces of paper, which she gives to the asylum seekers at 8 a.m. They form a line according to these numbers. Once they have reached the end of this line, they receive another number, this time for the Interior Ministry. Then, inside the office, there are two lines: one for filing asylum claims (though Israel has said claims filed after January will not be treated as reason to delay deportation), and one for renewing visas.

It is the first day that Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers have been issued deportation notices — letters instructing them to leave the country within two months or face indefinite detention in the Saharonim prison.

The Israeli government announced in early January that the African asylum seekers had three months to leave the country. Those who remain after the three months will face a choice: deportation to an unnamed third country, presumed to be Rwanda, or indefinite detention in Israel. Beginning in April, Israel will also gradually decrease the departure grant — currently $3,500 — allotted to asylum seekers who opt to leave the country.

Rwandan officials have repeatedly denied the existence of any secret agreement with Israel, under which their country accepts asylum seekers. Yet the deportations have already begun; Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority is reportedly offering a bonus of roughly $9,000 to high-school-educated citizens willing to participate in the deportation operations.

In contrast to the...

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Military court: Ahed Tamimi and her mom to remain in prison

Bassem Tamimi: ‘I don’t trust this court, I don’t trust this legal system, all of which is built to punish the Palestinians.’

By Oren Ziv

An Israeli military appeals court on Wednesday denied bail to Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian girl who was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier at the entrance to her home, and her mother Nariman, ordering them held in prison until the conclusion of their respective trials.

Tamimi is charged with five counts of assaulting security forces, as well as with incitement. Her mother is accused of incitement via social media.

Military Judge Haim Baliti rejected most of the arguments put forth by Attorney Gaby Lasky, who is representing both Ahed and Nariman. In a hearing on Monday, Lasky had challenged the military prosecution’s assertion that both Ahed and Nariman posed a danger to the security of the area, questioned why Ahed was subject to a different legal system than Israeli minors in the West Bank, and called the arrests politically motivated.

In his decision, Baliti said Ahed’s behavior was “ideologically motivated,” based on an assertion that she had repeatedly attacked soldiers over the years. He further argued that the fact that Ahed had never been arrested before went to show the leniency of the security forces, and was not indicative of whether or not those forces viewed Ahed Tamimi’s acts as criminal or not.

Following the two hearings, Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father and Nariman’s husband, vowed to continue the struggle for dignity and freedom — until the occupation ends.

“I don’t trust this court, I don’t trust this legal system, all of which is built to punish the Palestinians,” said Bassem, whom the EU once designated a human rights defender and Amnesty International called a prisoner of conscience. “My sister [was] killed inside one of these courts in 1993. My daughter and wife are in the hands of my enemy.”

WATCH: Bassem Tamimi after his wife and daughter’s hearing in military court

While the judge was reading his decision, Maurice Hirsch, formerly the Israeli army’s chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, and who currently works for right-wing NGO Monitor, distributed a document from the organization quoting himself. The document argued that all Western legal systems would have kept Ahed in jail until the end of legal proceedings, despite what human rights organizations mifht say. The distribution of NGO materials inside a court room is not...

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Refugees hold 'slave auction' outside Knesset to protest deportation

Israel plans to begin deporting tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers within weeks. Activists hope the action will raise awareness of what awaits them.

By Oren Ziv

A group of Eritrean asylum seekers and Israeli refugee advocates staged a mock slave auction outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, while a conference on government plans to begin mass deportations of asylum seekers took place inside Wednesday morning.

Around 10 asylum seekers stood on make-shift auction blocks made of milk crates, while an auctioneer called out, “get your slaves, slaves for half price,” over a megaphone. A single member of Knesset, Dov Khenin, came outside to support the asylum seekers, and called Israel’s refugee policy inhumane and unacceptable.

Israeli officials have stated that starting in a matter of weeks, tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel will face a stark choice: indefinite imprisonment or agree to be sent to Rwanda or Uganda. Asylum seekers who have left Israel for the two countries in recent years have not received any legal status there, and faced dangerous conditions and choices, including heading toward Europe through Libya, where human trafficking and other types of violence is a constant danger.

Vowing to choose prison over deportation, Awad, one of the Eritrean asylum seekers who took part in the protest action as a would-be slave on the auction block, appealed to Israelis to listen and learn. “Before you deport us let’s sit and talk about our problem. Learn about what the problems are in Eritrea,” said Awad, who asked not to use his last name. “We are refugees, not infiltrators, not work migrants — we are refugees. We will stay here, in prison.”

Human rights and refugee advocacy organizations in Israel and abroad have condemned the Israeli government’s plan and pledged to fight the deportations.

“The asylum seekers that are deported from Israel end up in Libya — end up being sold. This is not just an idea, this is what happens to them actually once they are deported from Israel,” said Sigal Avivi, an Israeli refugee rights activist who helped organize the action outside the Knesset on Wednesday. “Their lives are in danger. We came today to the Knesset to reinforce that message.”

A similar mock slave auction was held outside Tel Aviv’s main shopping mall, Dizengoff Center, a few weeks earlier.

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Nur Tamimi upon her release from prison: 'I have no regrets'

Hours after she is released from military prison, Nur, who was arrested along with her cousin Ahed following the release of a now-viral video, speaks about her arrest, her time in prison, and why she isn’t deterred.

By Oren Ziv

“It’s normal, it happens every day in Palestine, that soldiers enter our village and our homes. But this time, the Israeli media made a big deal about the story and it got a lot of shares on social media,” Nur Tamimi said in an interview with +972 Magazine, hours after she was released from prison last Friday. Tamimi, 21, from Nabi Saleh, was arrested nearly two weeks ago following the publication of a video showing her and her cousin, Ahed, attempting to push soldiers off of the porch of the Tamimi family’s home. Ahed, 16, and her mother, Nariman, have been denied bail and remain in prison as they await trial.

On Thursday around midnight, after the Israeli military court of appeals rejected the prosecution’s appeal against her release, Nur was taken from the Sharon Prison to the Jabara checkpoint, and then to her home, where her family was waiting for her.

I spoke with Nur on Friday morning at her home, where her relatives, supporters, and Palestinian media had gathered. Among the visitors who came to support Nur was Mohammed Tamimi, 15, whom Israeli soldiers shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet an hour or so before the now-famous video of Ahed and Nur was filmed. The weather was stormy, and so there wasn’t a protest in the village like most Fridays. Nevertheless, Israeli soldiers were deployed at the entrance to Nabi Saleh — presumably to remind the residents what would happen if someone dared step outside despite the rain.

“It was not an easy arrest because it was my first, but in jail I met many women who for many years have been fighting for their day-to-day survival there,” she said. “The most difficult experience was being in the prisoner transport vehicle. They would take us from the Sharon Prison at two in the morning and bring us back at 11 at night. We spent most of the time before and after the hearings in those vehicles, where it’s very cold and there’s no access to food, water, or restrooms.” Ahed was held in a cell separate from the other jailed Tamimi women because she is minor. Nur...

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WATCH: Israeli troops train assault rifles on medics and journalists

After arresting and wounding a Palestinian protester, Israeli Border Police attack medics who try to reach the detained man, as well as the photographers covering the arrest.

By Oren Ziv /

Israeli Border Police officers trained their assault rifles on medics and journalists during a protest at the DCO checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah last Friday, December 22. Since Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, the checkpoint has been the site of near-daily protests and clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

The video shows the area around the main square, where Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian demonstrator. During the arrest, Israeli troops beat and wound the Palestinian man. A large group of photographers covering the protest moved in to document the incident, while several medics attempted to reach the man who had been arrested. Even though there were no protesters around during the time of the arrest, Israeli forces released stun grenades and used their weapons to hit the journalists and the medics.

One of the medics says he was hit in the chest and then shot with a rubber-coated bullet from close range (the shooting does not appear in the video). Several minutes after the video, Israeli forces took the man they had arrested into their jeep and drove away.

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The protest began after the Friday noontime prayer, when around 100 Palestinian youth attempted to block the road leading to the checkpoint by burning tires. The army fired tear gas and started moving towards the protesters. At some point, a small group of Israeli Border Police managed to get close to the protesters from the side, firing tear-gas and rubber-coated bullets at them.

For three consecutive weeks, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank have protested Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcement that the U.S. embassy will move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Israeli forces killed have killed at least eight Palestinians, including double-amputee Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, 29, and wounded hundreds more since the protests began.

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Israeli army court orders Ahed Tamimi imprisoned for five more days

The Palestinian teenager from Nabi Saleh was arrested after being filmed confronting Israeli soldiers outside her home. Israeli forces have since arrested her mother and an another relative; her father Bassem received a summons while in court.

By Oren Ziv and Yael Marom

The Israeli army’s Ofer Military Court extended by five days the detention of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teen who was arrested for confronting Israeli soldiers outside her home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Video of the confrontation made headlines around the world. Police had asked the court to extend Ahed’s detention by 10 days.

Attorney Gaby Lasky, who is representing Ahed Tamimi, argued that even if the police intend to continue their investigation against her client, it is unnecessary to keep Ahed in prison.

“The police claim this is a unique incident carried out shamelessly and spitefully. But obviously neither shamelessness nor spite justify imprisonment,” Lasky said. “Israeli hilltop youth (settlers) have engaged in similar behavior and the police and the army chose not to arrest them or to consider their behavior such that requires keeping a minor under arrest.”

Lasky also criticized the manner in which Tamimi was arrested, as well as the request by the police to carry out the hearing behind closed doors. “Given that the incident in question occurred during the day, it would have been possible to carry out the arrest during the time of the incident or a few hours later. Instead, the army and the police chose to carry out an illegal, offensive, nighttime raid.”

“It is unacceptable that the military authorities decided to video-tape the arrest of a minor and send the clip to media outlets as punishment,” Lasky said of the state’s request to hold the hearing behind closed doors. “Now the police are suddenly worried about protecting the rights of a minor […] It seems that this is all to prevent anyone from seeing what happens inside the courtroom.”

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Israeli Border Police officers arrested Ahed in a night-time raid on the Tamimi family home in the early  hours of Tuesday. Her mother, Nariman, was arrested while accompanying Ahed to an Israeli police station.


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WATCH: Israeli troops stop Palestinian would-be suicide bomber

Israeli soldiers shoot and kill a Palestinian man wearing an explosive belt during clashes at a checkpoint near Ramallah. Three more Palestinians are killed during protests across the occupied territories.

By Oren Ziv /

Israeli Border Police officers shot and wounded a Palestinian wearing an explosive belt during clashes at the DCO checkpoint near Ramallah on Friday. The man, who was standing alongside the journalists while filming the demonstration on his phone, ran over to the officers and stabbed one of them with a small knife, wounding him lightly, upon which the officers opened fire and seriously wounded the man.

As he hit the ground, the man revealed a suicide vest strapped to his body underneath a large coat, causing the officers to retreat. As opposed to a statement put out by Israeli police, the attacker never wore a press vest to try and blend in with the journalists.

After collapsing, Palestinian medics evacuated the unconscious man to the ambulance. The soldiers prevented the ambulance from driving to the hospital, and removed him from the vehicle. After several minutes of arguing, the medics carried the man on a stretcher to a nearby private vehicle, which drove him toward Ramallah.

The officer who was stabbed was evacuated to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the Palestinian attacker is in critical condition.

The attack comes as daily clashes have raged across the occupied territories, following President Trump declared the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel. Two Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli soldiers during clashes in the Gaza buffer zone on Friday, a week after Israel killed two other Palestinians during last Friday’s demonstration the border between Israel and the Strip. Another Palestinian was shot and killed during protests in the Palestinian village of Anata in northern Jerusalem.

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Since the start of the protests, hundreds of Palestinians across the West Bank have been detained, and hundreds of others have been wounded by live fire, rubber bullets, and tear gas. Meanwhile, the Israeli army conducted dozens of night raids, arresting top Hamas members, and has established over 100 flying checkpoints across the West Bank.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force and Palestinian militants exchanged...

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PHOTOS: How the two Jerusalems marked Trump's embassy speech

While Israeli West Jerusalem celebrates, Palestinian East Jerusalem protests — with lights.

Photos by Oren Ziv/
Text by +972 Magazine Staff

In the minutes leading up to U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing his intention to move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv, authorities in East and West Jerusalem used light in starkly different ways to mark the occasion.

The Jerusalem Municipality projected American and Israeli flags onto the walls of the Old City, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Inside those walls, at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Jordanian Waqf, which oversees the holy Muslim site, shut off all the lights that normally illuminate one of Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmarks — the golden dome atop the mosque.

Ironically, both displays took place in occupied East Jerusalem.


The Palestinian Authority and Hamas both called for several days of rage to protest the decision. In the hour or so after Trump’s speech, many Palestinians in the Old City also turned off their lights in protest, as can be seen in this tweet by Quds News Network.

In Bethlehem, meanwhile, municipal authorities reportedly shut off the lights on the massive Christmas tree erected in Manger Square each year.


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