Photo Essay: Holy Week under Military Occupation

By the Jerusalem team,

2016’s Holy Week in Jerusalem was one full of contradictions. The week before brought the exciting news that 850 Christians from Gaza had been granted permits from the Israeli authorities to come and worship. However, a last minute travel ban between Wednesday and Saturday meant that even for those with permits, getting past checkpoints into the city became extremely difficult. A glorious Palm Sunday Procession down the Mount of Olives into the Old City was followed by a week where the realities of the occupation did not abate: house demolitions, arrests, and even the “apparent extrajudicial execution” of a Palestinian in Hebron (so called by Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov) marred the commemoration of Holy Week.

The strict crowd control employed by the Israeli military during the Good Friday procession of the Via Dolorosa (or ‘way of the cross’) created a feeling of needless division between worshipers of different faiths in the city. The procession was mostly peaceful, but not well attended – whether it was the travel ban or more general security concerns that kept people away is unclear. What is sure is that those worshipping within the city were some of the lucky few, with the majority of Palestinian Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza barred by a complex combination of the separation barrier, permits, and an atmosphere of fear.

This Easter many Palestinian Christians, were prevented from celebrating Easter freely and in accordance with tradition. Israel’s military occupation, and its associated régime of controls, has dramatically restricted Palestinians’ freedom of worship and access to churches in the Holy Land.

UN Resolution 476 calls for “the protection and preservation of the unique spiritual and religious dimension of the Holy Places in the Jerusalem.” Similarly, the World Council of Church maintains that “Jerusalem must be an open, inclusive and shared city in terms] of sovereignty and citizenship.” Moreover, movement restrictions that impede access to religious institutions – and are not necessary for the maintenance of public order – infringe on the rights of the Palestinian population to freedom of religion and worship, according to article 46 of the Hague Regulations, article 58 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, article 75 of the First Additional Protocol IAP). Restricted access to worship is one of the many areas in which the Israeli government separates Jerusalem from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and undermines the shared character of the city

More information:

Kairos Palestine 2016: Easter Alert

EAPPI: Access to Worship: Easter 2014

EAPPI/JIC: Faith Under Occupation: The Plight of Indigenous Christians in the Holy Land 


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