For the past two weeks, rioting has terrorized the streets of Jerusalem. Arabs have led the riots in protest of Israeli police barricading the steps near the Damascus Gate to keep Muslims from gathering after Iftar, the meal that breaks each day-long fast observed during the month of Ramadan. Police have since taken down the barricades, but some Knesset members criticized the move, viewing it as a means of giving in to the rioters. Law enforcement has arrested 17 suspected rioters since Ramadan began on April 13.
Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights saw significant violence, including rioters throwing stones at officers. The riots are reminiscent of conflicts between Arabs and police in Jerusalem during Ramadan in 2016, 2017, and 2019. The two biggest tests for Israeli police will come this weekend following Friday night prayers and on May 9, Jerusalem Day, when Israelis march through an Arab part of the Old City to celebrate the reunification of the Holy City after the Six-Day War. Hundreds of policemen will be dispatched to the Temple Mount and alleys of the Old City on Friday morning in anticipation of further violence.
Since these riots seem to follow a pattern, occurring at the same time in four of the past six years, I have confidence that Israel’s law enforcement is equipped to handle the riots in an organized, safe manner. But it can’t be an easy time for them or for Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem who have to look over their shoulders in case they get caught in the middle of a sudden outburst of violence. We pray for a softening of hearts and that protesting would turn to peace.