Israeli settlers celebrating Purim in the West Bank of Hebron paid tribute to an IDF soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant a year ago in the city, with some even dressing up as him.
A parade in the city on Sunday, which sees participants dress up, began at the spot where the shooting occurred on the same holiday last year.
The parade traditionally begins there, but this year it took on particular significance — a prominent far-right lawyer dressed up as the soldier, Elor Azaria, who has been convicted of manslaughter.
At least one other person also dressed up in tribute to Azaria, and a loudspeaker announcement as the parade began thanked him, drawing cheers from some in the crowd.
Bentzi Gopstein, the leader of the far-right extremist group, Lehava, was also seen at the festive event dressed as US President Donald Trump.
העדלאידע בחברון: עו"ד איתמר בן גביר התחפש לאלאור אזריה ובנצי גופשטיין התחפש לנשיא האמריקני דונלד טראמפ pic.twitter.com/70X1LUZlUR
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) March 12, 2017
Several hundred people took part in the parade in Hebron, where the presence of some 500 Israeli settlers in the heart of the city of some 200,000 Palestinians leads to near-constant tension.
Security was tight, with a large deployment of Israeli soldiers and police.
“I think it’s very normal that people feel that he saved us from a terrorist who tried to kill us, and a lot of people support him,” Tzipi Schlissel, 51, who lives down the street from where last year’s incident occurred, said of Azaria.
“I think the terrorist who gets support from a lot of people in the world is an evil person that came to kill people, and he can’t complain that he got killed when he came to kill other people,” added Schlissel, who said her father was killed in an attack years ago.
עיר האבות ובנים
פורים חברון 94- ברוך טובח ב29 חפים מפשע. חנן פורת מאחל "פורים שמח"
פורים חברון 17- דור ההמשך שר ברוך הגבר ומוות לערבים pic.twitter.com/Fkq3J7PHjt
— Achiya Schatz (@schatzah) March 12, 2017
Despite the tributes to Azaria, the parade was more celebration than politics, with children and adults dressed as everything from cartoon characters to clowns.
They paraded through a part of the flashpoint city under tight Israeli control, with checkpoints restricting access. Traditional and dance music blared from speakers.
In a video aired by Channel 10 on Sunday, some two dozen school-aged children were filmed by a Palestinian activist chanting “Death to Arabs,” and praising Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein who shot dead 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994 as “the man.”
Purim celebrates a story from Hebrew scripture in which the Jews of the Persian empire were rescued from annihilation. It’s generally a festive, carnivalesque occasion, celebrated with costumes, parades and street parties in cities around Israel.
During Purim last year, IDF soldier Azaria shot and killed Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, minutes after Sharif and another man had carried out a stabbing attack on troops in Hebron, and as Sharif lay on the ground disarmed and bleeding, having been shot during the attack.
The March 2016 shooting was caught on video and spread widely online.
Azaria was sentenced by a military court last month to 18 months in jail after an tense trial that highlighted deep divisions in public opinion.
He has appealed the conviction, but prosecutors have also appealed the sentence, calling it “excessively lenient.”