The Supreme Court ruled on Sunday on the appeal of the left-wing NGO “Ir Amim”, challenging a lower court ruling which permitted the traditional route of the annual Jerusalem Day “Rikudgalim” march.
The high court rejected the left-wing group’s appeal, but did require that the scheduling of the event be altered to accommodate the upcoming Ramadan holiday.
Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein noted during the hearing that the Jerusalem Day march is a decades-old tradition. He also state’s counsel, attorney Avinoam Segel, if it was possible to avoid passing by Muslim events in the Old City or to hold the event earlier, so as to reduce the likelihood of contact with Muslim worshippers ahead of Ramadan.
Segel responded, saying that marchers had until 6:30 to enter the Old City through Damascus Gate, and that the police were responsible for maintaining order throughout the event.
Justice Yoram Danziger said a film, presented by Ir Amim, of some participants in a previous Jerusalem Day march, raised serious concerns about the event. “The question is whether the police will be more determined [this time to prevent such incidents].”
Rubinstein shared Danziger’s concern, saying that “The film is unpleasant to watch, even if you argue that it’s been edited. There are elements that should not be accepted in the State of Israel.”
Segel replied that while “the film is disgusting, and it is sad that the holiday has been taken to such places,” the actions of those caught on film did not reflect the event as a whole.
“It’s been a year since then, and they’re [still] showing a minute and a half of video.”
The video clip, recorded during the 2015 Jerusalem Day march, shows a group of participants chanting anti-Muslim epithets in the Old City of Jerusalem and a scuffle between several marchers and local Arab activists filming the event.
When asked by the court whether those responsible had been prosecuted, Segel said that while “no indictments have been filed, there have been attempts [to find those responsible]. We intend to have a peaceful event, including in terms of security. We cannot tolerate calls to racism, and the police will enforce [our standards at the event]. There has been improvement every year, and based on the meeting with religious Zionist leaders and the organizers of the event we feel that everyone will do their best to ensure that the event is peaceful.”
The court ruled that while the original route of the event would be permitted, the schedule would be moved 15 minutes earlier, to reduce the chances of clashes with Muslims ahead of Ramadan.
Representatives of Ir Amim blasted the decision, saying the event’s entry into the Muslim Quarter was a needless provocation.
“We see that there’s something political here, and we cannot permit this march. I don’t think you need to go into the Muslim Quarter on a day like this.”
Organizers of the event, from the “Am KeLavi” movement, welcomed the decision to permit the traditional route of the Jerusalem Day march, but criticized the changes to the schedule.
“Thank God, also this year we will march on Jerusalem Day to the Old City from all sides and cover it completely with Israeli flags. On the other hand, the decision to empty out Haggai Street of Jews 40 minutes before we even know if the Muslim [month] of Ramadan is starting, is wrong. The Supreme Court ruled that Ramadan is more important that Jerusalem Day, and the painful fact is that will result in thousands of marchers being barred from entering through Damascus Gate. We call upon the public to continue the tradition and to come and show your love of Jerusalem on its holiday. We [also] ask the public to adhere to the orders of our ushers and the police.”
Am KeLavi’s attornies, Nati Rom and Aryeh Arbus praised the ruling, saying “We’re happy the court rejected the appeal to change the route of the Rikudgalim march. The Rikudgalim is an exciting event and a 27-year old tradition that [every year draws] tens of thousands of people.”
“We’re saddened that there are left-wing groups, largely funded by the New Israel Fund and the European Union, that take advantage of any opportunity to harm the unity of Jerusalem and the Rikudgalim march, which brings together all parts of the nation. These kinds of appeals belong in the ballot box, not in the court, and we hope that the police will keep the left-wing activists, who are looking to create provocations, far away from the marchers.”