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13 May 2021

Dear Friends,

When we sent out our newsletter on Sunday in the hours leading up to Jerusalem Day, we feared, yet still could not expect, the outbreak of overwhelming unrest that has since gripped both Jerusalem and the entire region. 

While welcomed, the police’s under-the-wire decision to divert the Jerusalem Day Flag Parade from passing through the Palestinian public spaces of Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter mere minutes before the parade was set to begin, only contributed to the spiraling tensions and the chain of baffling and destructive decisions that led us to the reality we see today. However, our long-standing insistence that the Flag Parade can reach the Western Wall via an alternate path and without abusively intruding on the Palestinian space was proven correct. This must continue to be the route in the years to come.

From L to R: An injured man is evacuated during Arab/Jewish rioting sweeping the country May 12 2021 Credit: Roni Ofer/Flash90 ; Israeli air strikes in Gaza, May 12 2021 Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib ; An Israeli man examines the damage to his home from a rocket strike, May 13 2021 Credit: AP ; Jews at the Western Wall celebrate seeing flames atop the TM/HAS compound on Jerusalem Day 2021.  
What we are witnessing now is difficult to grasp, and many of us are filled with a mix of fear, anger, and sorrow. The tensions of the past month have boiled over, claiming lives both in Israel and Gaza and igniting violence in Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab cities which has permeated the country, as a whole.

Nonetheless, it is imperative to understand that this is not happening in a vacuum: the events of the last few weeks in Jerusalem have presented a series of opportunities, where at each juncture a governmental order could have been given to de-escalate and ease the rising hostilities. 

Instead, the opposite occurred. 
What began as a primarily non-violent and unifying Palestinian civil struggle over the private home (ie: evictions in Sheikh Jarrah), the public space (ie: Damascus Gate), and religious symbolism (ie: Al-Aqsa Mosque), quickly encountered particularly violent and aggressive police measures at every turn. As explained in our previous newsletter, predominantly peaceful protestors had been forcibly dispersed through the usage of skunk spray, stun grenades, sponge-tipped bullets, and mounted officers. 

The targeting of Palestinian spaces and the methods used to subdue grassroots mobilization have deep roots in Israel's longstanding discriminatory policy towards East Jerusalem residents since 1967. When this wave of violence ends – and we hope it happens sooner rather than later – seeking dialogue in order to find real and comprehensive solutions to the discriminatory systems in place will be ever more important. Until then, the public arena must not be left in the hands of those who want escalation on one side or the other. Decision-makers, the police, and elected officials must do everything possible to reduce violence and prevent continued escalation. 
From L to R: Israeli police block protestors during a protest in Sheikh Jarrah. Credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters ; Palestinians on the TM/HAS utilize remnants of riot dispersal methods to spell out "Al-Quds" & depict the Al Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem Day, 2021. Credit: Rami Khateeb
And so - we call upon you, our friends and supporters, not to fall into the trap of hatred or despair; not to let the rampant violence make us think that the use of force is a justifiable alternative to a real solution; and to remember that even after all this ends, we will continue to work for justice and equality.

Eid al-Fitr, which began last night, and Shavuot, which begins in few days, will take place this year under harsh circumstances. All the more so, we wish that you and your loved ones can celebrate together in safety and in peace.  

In the face of seemingly unsurmountable challenges, may our strength and hope be renewed through family, community, and the fellowship of friends and neighbors, as together we continue our work towards safeguarding Jerusalem as both home and capital of two peoples, leading lives in freedom, dignity and peace. 

Ir Amim Staff
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