Photo Essay: Holy Week under Military Occupation

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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. Continue reading

Good Friday in Bethlehem: Waiting for Resurrection

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By EAs’ Thor, Elaine and Katherine,

Friday 25 March 2016 was a particularly holy day in the Holy Land. Purim, celebrating the events in the book of Esther, was just finishing. Christians were commemorating Good Friday in the place where Jesus was crucified. Muslims were preparing to pray at the third holiest place in Sunni Islam. EAs’ Thor, Elaine and Katherine write from Bethlehem:

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Easter 2014: Access to Worship Report

Jerusalem is a spiritual city for the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is also the center of Palestinian identity and source of its cultural, historical, economic and social life. Despite international calls for Jerusalem to be a shared city among all of these religions, Palestinian Christians still face restrictions and limitations on access, which inhibit them from celebrating Easter in the Holy City.

This year, EAPPI and the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre (JIC) issued a combined report attesting to the restrictions and limitations, yet pointing to a persistent hope in peace and perseverance in celebrating in the face of limitations.

Read it here, share it online or download it and print it for your friends.

Tourists & Palestinian Christians alike restricted, yet hope remains

Our EAs this year provided protective presence and monitored the human rights situation throughout the Easter celebrations. This is the 3rd account from our EAs sharing from Easter 2014 in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Holy Saturday was full of joyful celebrations as Local Christians waited for the arrival of the Holy Fire to be passed on throughout the world. Photo EAPPI/J. Valkama.

Holy Saturday was full of joyful celebrations as Local Christians waited for the arrival of the Holy Fire to be passed on throughout the world. Photo EAPPI/J. Valkama.

by Juhani, Jerusalem Ar Ram team

At the plaza of the Holy Sepulchre Church there’s a group of Christian pilgrims standing – a very squashed crowd in the middle of the steel fences. It’s the Holy Saturday just before Easter and they are waiting for the Holy Fire ceremony to start. The fire is lit in a place where they believe Jesus was crucified and buried. So for the Christians it’s a very special and holy place. From there the fire is passed throughout the Christian world, from candle to candle.

 

There are dozens of Israeli police and guards moving around the plaza, looking nervous and suspicious. The pilgrim group, on the other hand, is not able to move. The sun is parching and their waiting just goes on.

 “It’s the biggest wish in my life to be here”, says Janus, a pilgrim from Romania. “It’s not pleasant to be waiting like this, but in my heart I always knew that one day I must come here.”

At last, half an hour before the ceremony starts, they open the fences and let the people into the church. They are a lucky, but a very small band. When they’re in, the plaza of the Holy Sepulchre remains almost completely empty. Even though it is one of the most important Christian celebrations, one would think that there aren’t very many people interested.

The truth is different. All roads leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are cut off. Everywhere around the Old City of Jerusalem there are great number of local Christians and pilgrims behind the barriers trying to participate in Easter celebrations, but they are hampered by the Israeli police. The ceremony starts at 2pm, but the streets are closed already at 9am. No explanations are given by the Israeli troops. There’s a small tourist group near the Jaffa gate reading their maps and even they are evicted by the police.

The restrictions of Easter go even further. Already in the Palm Sunday procession it is clear that not all who would like to be there are present. There is just handful of Palestinian Christians from the occupied West Bank in Jerusalem because the permits have been very difficult to get. There is a simultaneous Jewish celebration too, Passover, that has tightened the restrictions for the Christians and Muslims even more, especially in Jerusalem. Also the Separation Barrier divides Palestinian Christians from accessing Jerusalem and Bethlehem freely. It’s a very concrete reminder of the severe restrictions of Palestinians mobility and lack of their human rights.

The separation barrier is illegal according to the International Court of Justice and in 2012 US State Department published a report about Israeli policies restricting freedom of worship for Palestinian Christians and Muslims. The report says:

“Strict closures and curfews imposed by the Israeli government negatively affected residents’ ability to practice their religion at holy sites” and that “the separation barrier significantly impeded Bethlehem-area Christians from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and made visits to Christian sites in Bethany (al-Eizariya) and Bethlehem difficult for Palestinian Christians who live on the Jerusalem side of the barrier.”

So the long-term conflict between the occupying state and the occupied is visible also on Easter at least through the fences, barriers and permits declined. The ongoing peace negotiations are not believed to make any significant results, but the hope lives on.

“I’m going to pray”, replies Janus when asked what he is going to do when he gets into the church. “I’m going to pray for peace. What could be more important?”

Clashes as Passover, Friday Prayer and Easter collide

Our EAs this year provided protective presence and monitored the human rights situation throughout the Easter celebrations. In the coming days, we’ll share with you accounts of Easter 2014 in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

by David, Lindsey, Sandra, and Lynn, Jerusalem team

This year Jewish Passover, and both the Orthodox and Western Christian Easters fell on the same week. On Good Friday, tensions rose as Christian processions along the Via Dolorosa and Muslims going on their way to Al Aqsa mosque occurred at the same time. Unrest primarily occurred near Al Aqsa when Israeli authorities restricted access to the compound to worshippers under the age of 50.

Additionally, earlier in the week, the leader of The Temple Movement, a Jewish extremist movement that wants to build a new temple, encouraged their followers to flow in and celebrate Passover at the al-Aqsa compound. When the Jewish extremists heard their call and came into the compound, violence broke out between Muslims and Israeli police. As a result, the gates leading to the mosque were closed denying men, women, and schoolchildren from entering the area. As a result of these clashes, twenty-five people were injured.

The following is a Photo Essay of Good Friday Easter 2014.

PHOTOS: Palm Sunday Celebrations in Jerusalem & Bethlehem

Thousands of Christians from all over the world come to Jerusalem and participate in the annual Palm Sunday March. Sadly, many Christians from the West Bank and Gaza do not attend. Often their permissions to enter Jerusalem arrive late. Even for those with permission, crossing checkpoints inhibits freedom of movement, something you don’t want to experience on a celebratory day.