The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem is prohibiting its official mission personnel from visiting the Old City of Jerusalem this Friday due to worries about Arab violence.
“This prohibition is due to the potential for demonstrations and large gatherings inside the Old City that day,” said the warning disseminated to all Americans on the Tel Aviv Warden's list.
Friday is the day of the Islamic Sabbath, when many Muslims stream into the mosques of Israel's holiest city to hear their clerics deliver sermons.
This week, those sermons are likely to be harangues of hatred against Israel and U.S. President Barack Obama in response to the American president's speech of support for Israel Wednesday at the United Nations General Assembly.
Obama warned the Palestinian Authority in his speech Wednesday that there are no shortcuts to peace; one way or another, the PA will have to engage in direct talks with Israel to reach a final status agreement, if it wants to attain statehood. In response, the Ma'an news agency reported that Arab youth in the entire Muslim world intend to show their anger at mass protests this Friday.
“The U.S. Consulate General reminds U.S. citizens that even peaceful marches and demonstrations can turn violent with little or no warning,” the alert from the American embassy pointed out. “U.S. citizens should monitor the security situation when planning their activities near areas where such marches and demonstrations may occur. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of traditional conflict during this time.”
For those who live anywhere in Judea, Samaria and nearly half of Jerusalem this may be an impossibility, however. The Palestinian Authority has insisted on taking for its hoped-for state precisely those areas – which include Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods such as Ramat Eshkol and French Hill, as well as more commercial spots such as the tony Mamilla Mall, the David Citadel and King David hotels, and the Old City, including sacred areas such as the Western Wall and Temple Mount – Judaism's holiest sites.
“U.S. citizens in Jerusalem are encouraged to exercise caution and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety and security, and to report any suspicious or unusual activity immediately to Israeli authorities,” advises the alert. “U.S. citizens should, as always, maintain a low profile in public.”
Although the alert advises Americans to contact “Israeli authorities” if they run into 'suspicious or unusual activity' in Jerusalem, however, the U.S. is still careful to maintain its stance that the capital of the Jewish State does not belong to Israel.
“Current information on travel and security in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip may be obtained from the Department of State,” the alert advises.
The Consulate added that “additional and more in-depth information about specific aspects of travel to these areas” is available on the State Department's website under the title, “Country Specific Information for Israel, Jerusalem, The West Bank and Gaza.”