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Your Weekly Israel News Roundup, May 19, 2023
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Jerusalem Day 2023: Hundreds of Jews Visit Temple Mount, Tens of Thousands Participate in Annual “Flag March”: Jerusalem Day marks the annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War, and the unification of East and West Jerusalem under one municipality. In recent years, the day’s events, including the mass “flag march” sparked an escalation in tension and violence throughout Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. This year Jerusalem Day was marked a day earlier, because of the Sabbath.
1,200 Jewish worshippers visited the Temple Mount during Jerusalem Day, fewer than last year. Four members of Knesset from the Likud and Jewish Power coalition parties visited the Temple Mount on the morning of Jerusalem Day. The Temple Mount is currently the location of two Muslim holy sites; the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqua mosque. It is the historic location for the destroyed Jewish temple whose exact location is unknown. The visits sparked criticism from Jordan, United Arab Emirates, as well as from other members of the coalition, as causing unnecessary tensions. However, no unusual incidents were recorded during the visits.
Tens of thousands, mostly national religious youth, and young adults, participated in the annual flag march through the main streets of West Jerusalem and through the Old City, en route to the Western Wall. As in previous years, Palestinian shop owners in the old city were requested to close their shops to allow the marchers to go through. And, as in previous years, the march through the old city was a manifestation of Jewish supremacy. Some violent incidents were recorded when Jewish marchers attacked a Palestinian man and three journalists, but overall, the police reported that the march ended without severe clashes or arrests.
On Friday morning, the day following the flag march, violent clashes erupted in several locations in the Old City between Jewish and Muslim worshipers after mass prayers at the Western Wall. Several civilians and one policeman were mildly injured.
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After Five Intensive Days of Confrontation, Israel Reached a Ceasefire With Militants in Gaza: The last round of violence between Israeli military forces and Islamic Jihad from Gaza ended. It all started with the death of a Palestinian prisoner, affiliated with Islamic Jihad, who died of a hunger strike. Militants from Gaza responded by firing rockets towards Israel, and that quickly deteriorated. Israel used targeted killing to kill three senior Islamic Jihad leaders in their homes. In the airstrike Israel also killed two of their wives and three small children. Shortly thereafter half of Israel could hear air raid sirens and was under attack from rockets and missiles. Schools were shut together with all other educational institutes, and all public activities were halted for five days. Two Israelis were killed, and there was some damage to property in Israel. In Gaza 39 Palestinians were killed, among them 14 civilians, including children.
The controlling power in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, was not involved.
After five days and with the mediation of Egypt, a ceasefire was achieved.
Due to the situation, the main Tel Aviv weekly demonstration against the judicial coup was held at a smaller scale. In other parts of the country, excluding the areas close to the border with Gaza, demonstrations against the judicial coup continued for the nineteenth week in a row.
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Thousands March in Haredi Town Bnei-Brak to Protest Against New Legislation: A new bill, introduced by PM Netanyahu’s coalition, intends to take part of the local taxes raised by richer municipalities and distribute the money to financially poor towns, especially Haredi (ultra orthodox) towns. Tens of mayors from all over the country and from all political views, declared that they will not cooperate with the new mechanism, and initiated a strike. Thousands of people started a protest against the new bill. This is still a developing story. The gap between Jewish Orthodox and secular liberals in Israel is getting deeper, and inflaming the protest against the government. The first confrontation started around the demand of the Haredi parties to pass a bill that would exclude their youth from the mandatory military draft. That created a huge protest and the bill was shelved for now. The new bill, to create a special budget from municipal taxes is in the process of approval. The municipalities are determined to appeal it in the High Court of Justice if it passes.
MK Ayman Odeh to Step Down as Chairman of Hadash Party Prior to Next Elections: Odeh, the leading architect of the union of Arab parties in the 2015 elections, announced earlier this week that he will step down from his position as Chairman of the Hadash party, the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality. In a post on social media, Odeh wrote: "part of the role of a public servant is to know when to take a step back to look at the big picture”. Odeh also wrote that he believes his stepping down will allow for a new generation of political leaders to step up.
According to the media, the announcement caught some of Odeh’s political partners at Hadash by surprise, although some analysts claim that he knew that according to the party’s bylaws, he cannot run for office again after serving for eight consecutive years.
Speculations regarding Odeh’s plans after leaving the Knesset were quick to follow; from running for Mayor in his hometown Haifa, to starting a new political party. MK Odeh, in his post on social media made a general comment regarding his future plans and wrote that he plans to dedicate himself to building unity within the Arab community and to promoting peace between Israel and Palestine. It remains to be seen who will replace MK Odeh as chairman of the Hadash party. One possibility cited by the media is Dr. Yousef Jabareen, former MK and human rights advocate.
Israeli Singer Noa Kirel Ranked Third in the Eurovision Song Contest: The Eurovision is the biggest song contest in the world and started as a local European event, that grew over the years. It is considered a festive event of creativity of songs, choreography and costumes, Over the years Israel not only managed to be included in the contest, although it is not in Europe, but also has won the contest several times. The competition is based on country representation. The country that wins, gets to host the next contest. Therefore Israel hosted the contest several times in the past, the last one was two years ago. The event generated a lot of tourists, who flooded the streets. Last year Ukraine won the competition, but it obviously could not host the event this year. As a result it was held in Liverpool UK instead, and won by Sweden.