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On The Eve Of The U.S. Embassy Move, Israelis Mark Jerusalem Day


And now to our correspondent Peter Kenyon in Jerusalem, where thousands of people celebrated Jerusalem Day today. It's a national holiday marking the unification of the city under Israeli rule following the 1967 war.

Hello, Peter.


SINGH: Jerusalem Day is an annual celebration. But is there a sense that this is somehow a special year because of the embassy move?

KENYON: Yes, I think you could say that. People say there seems more enthusiasm. It feels a bit more intense in part because the U.S. has finally followed through on bringing the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although a complete move is still likely years away. The ambassador, David Friedman, says he'll be commuting between the two cities for some time to come. But I spoke with a number of people, including a Moroccan Jew named Charlie Bar. He came to Israel back in 1962, and he says President Donald Trump's decision to move the embassy was the greatest gift America could give to Israel. He also called Trump crazy, but he meant it as a compliment. Here's what he said.

CHARLIE BAR: I always say that the war needs a crazy man - and when I say crazy man, I mean crazy man good. Not like Assad, like Saddam, crazy by good. And thanks God - he gave us a good crazy man.

KENYON: So that was definitely the most unusual compliment of the day, but other Israelis told me they don't think this embassy move will have any immediate impact on Mideast peace talks, but they mainly blame the Palestinians for that.

SINGH: What about the Palestinians? How are the Palestinian people responding to this move by President Trump?

KENYON: Well, the Palestinian Authority has already said the U.S. is no longer seen as a fair broker of any peace agreement. At the street level, the mood - sometimes defiant, sometimes resignation. I spoke to a number of people in the Old City's Arab quarter, including shop owner Abu Habib al-Hroub He says, this year, Jerusalem Day is just one of a series of headaches for Palestinians. Tomorrow's American embassy move ceremony takes place on Israel's Independence Day. And then, Tuesday, is the Palestinian response. They call it the Nakba or catastrophe that refers to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. And then Wednesday marks the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month with no eating or drinking during the day. But al-Hroub says the moving of the embassy by itself is not an earth-shaking event. Here's some of what he said.

ABU HABIB AL-HROUB: (Foreign language spoken).

KENYON: Now what he's saying here is that, in his opinion, it doesn't matter whether they move the embassy to Jerusalem because the Palestinians are still here. They're not going anywhere. And he says they'll do everything they can to prevent anything that would damage the identity of Jerusalem.

SINGH: NPR's Peter Kenyon in Jerusalem. Thank you, Peter.

KENYON: Thank you, Lakshmi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.