Aaron Ettinger, one of the paratroopers who fought in Jerusalem during the Six Day War, was severely wounded on Salah e-Din Street near Damascus Gate.

Tonight, at a Jerusalem Day sing-along at a synagogue around the corner from the President’s Residence, Aaron was given the microphone in between the Jerusalem songs to recount his experiences during the two hellish days of the battle for Jerusalem in June 1967.

The elderly, slightly portly man with a full head of white hair topped with a knitted kipa, spoke about the number of his comrades (mostly reserve army kibbutzniks) who fell in the worst of the battles, which took place on the northern side of the Old City on Nablus Road, Salah e-Din Street and in front of Damascus Gate.

On Tuesday, June 6 1967, Aaron’s Tzanchanim–parachutist unit reported 100 dead and 600 injured.  The death toll overall rose to 181, with more than 1000 wounded.

Aaron himself sustained critical injuries and eventually was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where he was initially listed as dead

Damascus Gate itself was heavily damaged during the fighting and only fully restored in 2011.

Damascus Gate

Given the significance of the battles in the area, it stands to reason that one of the routes of the traditional Jerusalem Day Flag Parade would pass through Damascus Gate.

Tens of thousands of mostly young people take part in the event, which was marred last year by a few over-enthusiastic and ignorant participants yelling slurs at local Arabs.  The vast majority of the crowd passed through the Gate singing and dancing, waving flags on their way to the Kotel.

Yom Yerushalayim 2011. © Judy Lash Balint

Along comes an announcement from Gush Shalom calling to abolish Jerusalem Day and calling a protest at Damascus Gate at 6 p.m

It is time to end the lie and erase this ugly stain from the calendar of the State of Israel. The real Jerusalem Day will be the day when the occupation ends and Jerusalem becomes the capital of two states – West Jerusalem the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine. Only then can Jerusalem truly be a united city, by the free will of all its inhabitants – Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The news release adds:

It should be noted that the protest is organized by Palestinians and it is our partners who will determine the nature of the demonstrations. We must also warn that in recent years, “Jerusalem Day” is often marked by violence from both settlers and the security forces.

Aaron Ettinger will be sad to know that 45 years after the reunification of Jerusalem and the sacrifices of his friends to achieve it, there are Jews for whom Damascus Gate is still a flashpoint, and some who would even join with Arabs to urge a re-division of the city.

Yom Yerushalayim sameach!