Daily Israel Report

Light Rail Limits Traditional Jerusalem Day 'Flag Dance'

The traditional “flag dance” in honor of Jerusalem Day may be limited this year due to the light rail train.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 5/20/2011, 1:10 PM / Last Update: 5/20/2011, 3:21 PM

Flash 90

The city of Jerusalem and the Israel Police have refused to give a permit to the traditional “flag dance” (rikudegalim) march on Jerusalem Day to pass down Yafo Street and through Tzahal Square. Officials argue that the march would interfere with the operation of the light rail train.

Traditionally, thousands of  marchers go down Yafo street waving Israeli flags then split, with men going left and entering the Old City through the Shechem and Ashpa gates, while women go straight or right and enter the Old City through Yafo and Zion gates. All of the marchers end at the Kotel (Western Wall).

In recent years organizers had avoided Yafo Street due to construction work, but they had hoped to return this year with the completion of the train track. Attorney Naftali Wartzberger, who represents “Am K'Lavi,” which organizes the march, told Arutz Sheva other marches have been held on Yafo Street despite the presence of the train.

Wartzberger believes the city of Jerusalem came to an agreement with train operators regarding the number of days a year in which marches will be allowed on Yafo street, but did not include the Jerusalem Day flag procession in that number.

“It could be that we need to reduce the number of participants. But this is a very traditional Jerusalem event, it's part of the fabric of the city, and they need to make exceptions,” he said. The traditional path is of great importance because it allows marchers to enter from all gates of the Old City, he argued.

Am K'Lavi intends to file an appeal to the Supreme Court if the city does not change its ruling, Wartzberger warned.

Jerusalem city officials replied, “This year like every year the city of Jerusalem is happy to assist in the march on Jerusalem Day, and will even participate in funding the 'flag dance.' However, the operation of the light rail on Yafo Street prevents the march from proceeding along the tracks, both for security reasons and for legal reasons connected to the contract with the company operating the light rail. The primary concern is not to delay the operation of the train.”

The city has suggested alternate routes, officials added.