Land Day is an event held every March 30th that demonstrates what many see as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. It originated as a yearly event after six protesters were killed by Israeli forces in 1976. This year Palestinian leaders and activists encouraged international protests today in order to bring awareness of what they deem inhumane and opressive treatment of the Palestinian people.
Today I had to go to the market to get food, and I thought it would be a great convience to stop by El Dorado, my favorite cady store in the predominantly Arab area of East Jerusalem. After I went to the market, I went to my favorite candy store to get some fabulous chocolate-covered raisins and imported European chocolates. As my friend and I walked past the Damascus Gate and onto Salah ad Din street, we noticed how many people were not walking on the streets. It seemed almost abandoned. Of course, Friday is the holy day and many Muslims close shop and stay home on that day; however, I have been to Damascus Gate and Salah ad Din Street before, and nothing compared to the emptiness we experience then.
At the store, we were the only customers there, something I had never seen before in my dozens of visits. Yes, dozens. I am a candy addict. The shop owner was visibly nervous and kept looking outside the shop to see if anything was going on. Even he was taken aback by the unusual behavior.
We decided to walk back to the Damascus Gate to wait for something to happen. I knew if something were to happen, it would happen at the Damascus Gate. There was a huge barricade of IDF soldiers and Israeli police. They were allowing only tourists, Arab men over the age of 40, children and women through the barricade to go into the Old City. This was done in order to monitor entrance and prevent disturbances from occurring.
We went through the barricade and sat on the steps of Damascus Gate, eating candy and waiting for something to happen. We were not the only ones either. There were numerous news crews and curious tourists with their cameras, snapping photos of soldiers and security forces.
Finally we saw people approaching with banners and Palestinian flags. The atmosphere was peaceful and there did not appear to be anything threatening. Israeli soldiers were even pulling out their cameras, snapping pictures of the protest.
We waited a little while and watched as the protesters made speeches and later chanted slogans about freeing Palestine. Nothing too interesting seemed to develop in this area, so my friend and I left after about twenty minutes and made our way back home. Ultimately, the protest did a great job in getting the media's attention, especially at a time when so much is happening in the Arab world. For the past year, the Palestinian issue has been put on the back burner by the international community, and activists are attempting to do whatever they can to bring it back into the spotlight. For many years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the center of the Middle East spotlight. Today, it has to do whatever it can to get the attention of the media.
The Crossover Project