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Jerusalem Day march to be replaced with 700-person chain around Old City

Under coronavirus restrictions, annual parade celebrating full Israeli control over capital will not pass through Muslim Quarter; 450 people to attend ceremony at Western Wall

Israelis wearing Israeli flags parade around Jerusalem's Old City on May 24, 2017, to commemorate Jerusalem Day, marking the reunification of the city following the Six Day War of 1967. (AFP PHOTO / Menahem KAHANA)
Israelis wearing Israeli flags parade around Jerusalem's Old City on May 24, 2017, to commemorate Jerusalem Day, marking the reunification of the city following the Six Day War of 1967. (AFP PHOTO / Menahem KAHANA)

Police and organizers came to an agreement Wednesday on holding a smaller, more coronavirus-friendly Jerusalem Day march on Thursday, to mark the anniversary of Israel taking control of the Temple Mount compound and the eastern parts of the city during the 1967 Six Day War.

The day is usually marked by a right-wing march through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter ending at the Western Wall, and has in the past been blamed for increased tensions between Jews and Arabs.

According to the agreement reached with the Israel Police, instead of a march through the Old City’s narrow warren of streets, 700 people will be allowed to form a human chain, with two meters between links, around many of the Old City gates, organizers said in a statement.

In addition, a convoy of cars will drive around Jerusalem and circle the Old City. The events will culminate in a ceremony at the Western Wall attended by 450 people who registered in advance.

Organizers had sought permission for a 3,000 person human chain stretching from the center of western Jerusalem through the Old City.

The agreement comes after a High Court hearing on the matter.

Jewish Orthodox marchers gather to celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Old City’s Damascus gate in Jerusalem on June 2, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP)

The so-called Flag March, in which primarily religious teenagers march through the Old City decked in white and blue, has raised tensions in the past over its route through the Muslim Quarter.

Palestinian shopkeepers with stores along the route are forced to shutter their businesses during the parade, and residents of the Muslim Quarter are advised to stay indoors.

In previous years, the march has sparked sporadic incidents of violence between Palestinians and Israeli revelers.

After Israel captured East Jerusalem in the Six Day War, it annexed it and declared the entire city the undivided capital of Israel. However, the move has not been recognized by much of the international community, with the exception of the US.

Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, and the future status of the city is among the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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