Flowers – red, white and blue – form the image of the US flag on the road leading up to the site of the new American mission in Jerusalem. “US embassy” signs have been hoisted in the neighbourhood. The US embassy Twitter account – previously in Tel Aviv as @usembassytlv – is now @usembassyjlm.
All is set for the inauguration on Monday, an opening charged with symbolism that its organisers anticipate will set off a wave of euphoria across the Jewish state 70 years since it declared independence on 14 May 1948.
Hundreds of guests will attend, alongside a White House delegation led by John Sullivan, US deputy secretary of state, and including the much higher-profile Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
For Israel’s prime minister, the embassy move is seen as one of two gifts from Donald Trump to the country, the other being his exit this week from the Iran nuclear deal that will reimpose sanctions on Benjamin Netanyahu’s arch-enemy.
Yet a celebratory atmosphere masks a particularly feverish time for Israel, even, some say, by historical standards.
To Israel’s south, the army has been lambasted internationally for its lethal response to Palestinian protests that have not relented for weeks. To the north, and for the first time in decades, the country is facing the possibility of on-off interstate war.
Trump’s decision to recognise the holy city as Israel’s capital was made in stark defiance of long-held international consensus that the status of divided Jerusalem should be negotiated with the Palestinians.
Senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath, speaking near the site of the new embassy, said Trump was “siding totally with Israeli annexation and Israeli cleansing of our people from Jerusalem”.
As the US president’s daughter attends the pomp, less than 60 miles away, a six-week protest spurred on by anger and desperation at Trump’s embassy decision is expected to culminate in a mass demonstration in Gaza.
Next week has added significance for millions of Palestinians, who will mark seven decades since the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people who either fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s creation.
Gaza’s protesters have vowed to break through the perimeter fence despite the presence of Israeli snipers deployed on sandbanks behind it.
The Gaza-based leader of Hamas, which rules the enclave, said the rallies would be peaceful but would not be held back. “What’s the problem if hundreds of thousands storm this fence which is not a border of a state?” Yahya Sinwar said, claiming the frontier was not internationally recognised.
Israel’s use of live ammunition against unarmed masses has killed dozens of Palestinians, including journalists, and wounded around 1,700, including children shot in the legs.
On Friday, Israeli troops killed one protester and wounded 49 others, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The Israeli military said 15,000 Palestinian “rioters” had taken part and thrown “pipe bombs and grenades” towards Israeli troops. No Israeli has been wounded during the six-week movement.
In stark contrast to that of the White House, the general international reaction to the Israeli army’s actions has been condemnatory.
In a separate move defying global allies, Trump effectively pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Tuesday, a decision that has shaken an already turbulent Middle East.
On Thursday, Israel accused Tehran’s forces of launching a barrage of rockets at its troops in the occupied Golan Heights. Iran did not confirm it had fired but the incident follows reports of multiple unclaimed and surreptitious Israeli strikes on Tehran’s outposts in Syria this year.
Saying it was retaliating against the rockets, Israel launched a massive operation on its Arab neighbour – the largest in Syria since the early 70s.
The Israel Defence Forces claimed its missiles hit nearly all key Iranian military targets in Syria during dozens of strikes. The operation, nicknamed “house of cards”, was lauded by unnamed military officials in local media as a huge success against its enemies.
A poll this month found 63% of Israelis thought the embassy move was in Israel’s best interests and 71% believed that the military’s open-fire policy in Gaza was justified. Closed to half believed Iran and Israel were unlikely to fight directly, although the poll was conducted before Thursday’s confrontation.
Ahead of the embassy opening, others have cautioned against jubilation over the US pullout of the Iran deal and the Israeli attack in Syria.
“In Israel these days, Benjamin Netanyahu is king and Donald Trump is a god. Adrenaline is flowing through the nation’s veins and testosterone could soon spill over,” wrote Chemi Shalev, the US editor for the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“[C]ritics of the two leaders can only hope and pray that their apprehensions are misplaced and that euphoria, for a change, won’t turn out to be a prelude to disaster,” he said.
Iran’s foreign ministry said the raids in Syria were launched on “invented pretexts” and that Damascus had every right to defend itself. In a more defiant tone, a senior Iranian cleric close to the leadership, Ahmad Khatami, was quoted on state TV as saying: “We will expand our missile capabilities despite western pressure.”
Ben Caspit, a prominent Israeli journalist, described a national mindset of elation in Maariv, one of the country’s oldest daily newspapers, saying if Israel were playing a football game, the score would be “10-0 in our favour”.
“The problem is that the final whistle can’t be blown any more,” he wrote. “The dangerous game that we have been drawn into can turn against us at any moment. It has no set or clear rules … The security establishment knows that this wasn’t even the first half of the game. It was barely the start.”