Jerusalem Burning

The last time Jerusalem burned was 70 CE. Back then, it was because the Jewish population conducted the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans. This ended a four year campaign held by the Romans against the Jewish insurgency of the time, but much of the city was destroyed.

Now, Jerusalem is burning in another way entirely, though there is still plenty of fire involved.

Between Thursday night, April 22, and early Friday morning, a number of fires were started throughout the city as ultra-nationalists in Israel chanted anti-Arab slogans including “Death to Arabs” and “Death to terrorists.”

As every year during Ramadan, which began April 12 this year, there is an increase in clashes between the Israelis and the Palestinians of Jerusalem. Ramadan is the holy fasting month in Islam and is a well celebrated holiday in which family and friends enjoy food after sunset among other things; it's the holiest month of the year for Muslims. Outside of iftar, the holiday demands charity to those less fortunate and there is increased praying at mosques and other religious gatherings.

From Thursday to Friday, more than 50 arrests were made by the Israeli police force and more than 100 Palestinians were injured.

The major conflict of the night came between two groups: a group of young Palestinians throwing firecrackers at garbage cans to light them up and the aforementioned ultra-nationalist Israelis.

The clashes began as the group of Israeli nationalists marched towards Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to the Old City. Every year during Ramadan, there are nightly gatherings by Muslim worshippers, and although Israeli police sealed off the area in order to prevent the two crowds from meeting, this interrupts the regular attendance of Arabs to Damascus gate. In retaliation, Palestinians were seen dragging burning trash cans into streets to block police and setting off fireworks in their general direction. The determination to gather, pray, celebrate and relax in communal sites, particularly for the local Muslim population, is very strong.

Though the clashes reached a relative calm by the middle of Friday, Israeli police continued to block off Damascus gate, preventing Muslims from continuing their long standing traditions at the gate.

The yearly clashes between the police and local Arabs began like always with the start of Ramadan, but new bouts of violence and blatant hatred such as these are fuel to the already constantly burning fire that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Small acts of peace and violence alike are skewed and often exaggerated to better fit the needs of one side.

The world looks at countries like Israel, which seems to be filled with hatred between two parties, and recognizes that someone needs to be held accountable. Despite this, the world continues to ignore the situation and leave such decisions up to peacekeeping entities, like the UN, that have no real power in situations like these. We're all limited in our ability to act but we are not limited in our ability to acknowledge. The conflict has reached a point where mistrust of both sides is the key factor in any individual or group response and retaliation. It's no wonder why things are this way when “Death to Arabs” is a popular belief chanted in streets and the only defense Palestinians feel they have left is burning garbage cans.

 

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5