This is going to be the most boisterous, exciting, proud, and also a little scary week in Israel in general, and in Jerusalem in particular, as a grateful nation is celebrating the divine gift we received 51 years ago today, as at least two other nations are acknowledging it as well, and as the people who lost the gamble for the holy land 71 years ago will try to crash the party.
Tens of thousands of Jews are expected to participate in various events in honor of Jerusalem Day on Sunday, marking the 51st anniversary of the liberation and unification of the city. Among other things, special prayers, poetry and memorial rallies will take place in the capital, as will the traditional “Flag Dance” parade, which will depart from Independence Park in the afternoon.
The march, which in recent years has sparked clashes between marchers and Muslim residents of the Old City, will pass along Jaffa Road, through the Old City, and reach the Western Wall in the evening. It will be held under the heavy security of hundreds of policemen who will accompany it throughout.
At 6:30 PM, a festive Thanksgiving will be held at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav in Jerusalem, with the participation of the Chief Rabbis, ministers and yeshiva deans. At 7:45 PM, on Ammunition Hill, will begin an official ceremony for the reunification of Jerusalem in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
On Monday, the US Embassy will be inaugurated in the neighborhood of Arnona, with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman presiding over the ceremony. He will be accompanied by a delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Senior Advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Advisor and favorite daughter Ivanka Trump, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt.
The State Department on Saturday issued a statement saying, “Seventy years ago, the United States, under President Harry S Truman, became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel,” and explaining that “moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal; rather it is a necessary condition for it. We are not taking a position on final status issues, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, nor on the resolution of contested borders.”
The ambassadors of four EU countries—Austria, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary—will attend a Sunday reception at Israel’s Foreign Ministry in honor of the US embassy move. 40 out of 86 ambassadors who were invited have RSVP’d. But these four countries stood out when they voted together to block the release of a statement by the European Union that rejected US plans to officially open its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Saturday strongly condemning these four governments.
On Tuesday, “Nakba” Day events will begin, marking the Arabs’ second catastrophe after having rejected a UN plan to partition the land. Israel then declared independence on May 14, 1948, Arab armies invaded the new state and the fate of the Arab population was decided. Nakba (Catastrophe) Day is a day of mourning, anger, and lamenting the Arabs who fled or were expelled from their homes during Israel’s War of Independence.
Tuesday’s “Nakba” events are scheduled to take place in Judea and Samaria, and in Arab-Israeli communities, including a ceremony in front of Tel Aviv University. But all eyes will be on the Gaza border this year, where Hamas is panning a mass storming of the border fence, in hope of getting Arab civilians killed by IDF fire. This will be the culmination of a six-week period of “marches” in which dozens of Arab rioters have already been killed.
Wednesday will see the second move of a foreign embassy to permanent new quarters in Jerusalem. The Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Sandra Erica Jovel Polanco, is already in Israel and will spend Sunday visiting Yad Vashem. President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala is also coming to Israel this week to officially establish his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. We hope the day will pass with just drinks and handshakes, but this is an unusually volatile week, so who knows.
Then comes a day destined to erupt in violence: the first Friday in Ramadan, when the faithful riot and burn down stuff. The IDF has announced that Gaza residents will not be allowed to cross the border into Israel or Jerusalem this year, following a “situational assessment.”
“Upon the recommendation of the IDF Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and as part of the policy to improve the fabric of life of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria, the Minister of Defense, Avigdor Liberman, has approved a series of civilian measures for the holiday period,” read a statement by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
So, whatever happens in Gaza this Ramadan, stays in Gaza.
Good luck to all of us and let’s all focus on next Sunday, which is the holiday of Shavuot.