By Julie Holm
The most precious gift I got last Christmas was a t-shirt with the words “Jerusalem, the heart of Palestine”. The person who gave me the t-shirt as well as what it stands for is what makes it so special. A good friend, a Palestinian, found it at the back of his closet; a never-worn souvenir from the Intifada.
Most Palestinians do not have access to Jerusalem; the city on everyone’s mind and in everyone’s heart. All Palestinians have something in Jerusalem they long for, dream about, wish and hope for. It can be a particular place, childhood memories, family and friends, the capital of a future, free, Palestinian state and most of all, just the opportunity to go there, the city that is so close and yet so far away.
Last Friday, as Palestinians commemorated Land Day, people in 64 countries around the world walked with them in solidarity in a worldwide march to Jerusalem. From Argentina to Australia, India to Ireland and Malaysia to Morocco the first ever Global March to Jerusalem was a worldwide, political action to reconfirm the world’s solidarity with the Palestinian people. The aim of the march was to demand freedom for Palestine and it’s people and to put an end to the apartheid regime and ethnic cleansing affecting the people, land and sanctity of Jerusalem. The organizers wished to unite the efforts of all the citizens of the world, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or political or national belonging, to put an end to Israel’s disregard for international law and its continuing occupation of Jerusalem and of Palestine.
Using only peaceful tools to achieve this aim, the protesters were to march “towards” Jerusalem; to the borders of Israel with neighboring countries, to Israeli embassies or the point that is closest to Jerusalem in other countries. As the march was designed to be a global, peaceful movement, the protesters were to walk to the borders but not exceed them using violence.
In Jordan, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters, many of them from countries as far away as Indonesia and Canada, came together on a plain in the Jordan Valley overlooking Palestine. With waving flags and handmade signs they called for Jerusalem to be free. In Malaysia, organizers expected a turn out of about 6,000 people to the event of the day but were pleasantly surprised when 15,000 people showed up in solidarity with Palestine. In several countries, such as the UK, Norway and Australia, organizers combined the commemoration of Land Day, the Global March to Jerusalem and raising awareness of boycott, divestment and sanction-measures against Israel.
Another impressive act of solidarity was the Asian caravan that took off from New Delhi on the 9th of March. Members of 15 Asian nations participated in the caravan moving towards Jerusalem and were joined by citizens of other countries along the way. Crossing from India towards the Palestinian border, the 250-some members of the caravan had some visa issues along the way, but eventually ended up in Beirut from where they participated in the march.
With the whole world moving towards Jerusalem in an act of solidarity one can only hope that soon, anyone will be able to reach Jerusalem, not least all Palestinians. Now, the heart of Palestine is surrounded by a concrete wall and occupied by Israel who lets very few people in. But the heart is a symbol of love and life, which is exactly what Jerusalem is to Palestine.
Julie Holm is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at [email protected]