On Good Friday, hundreds of pilgrims retraced the last journey of Jesus in the Old City of Jerusalem. Many Christians in Gaza, however, are still waiting for permits to take part in the Easter festivities.
Under a gray and rainy sky, Palestinian Christians and visitors from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem for the Old City’s traditional Good Friday procession, which departs on the Via Dolorosa and retraces the route that Jesus is believed to have taken to his Crucifixion. The path goes through the Old City and ends at the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been buried. “We are Christians from India, and it is very hard to comprehend that Jesus, the Son of God, touched earth,” said one of the visitors, a woman named Iola. “And these were the places where his feet touched and he walked, and actually to be there, on the day of his Crucifixion, it is very moving.”
This year, the Jewish Passover holiday also begins on Good Friday and runs for a week. Security is tight, with Israeli police and border guards posted every few meters along the route. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem tried to go about their daily lives, as did Muslim worshippers on their way to Friday’s noon prayers. Even some of the visitors were frustrated by the closures of certain streets. But most patiently took in the atmosphere. “We want to get the whole Holy Land experience: We want to experience where Jesus walked,” said Amanda Cummings, an American who lives in Germany. “It is very different here culturally, the way they celebrate Easter, but it is very nice and a much bigger celebration.”
Missing this year are Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, home to about 1,000 Christians, most of them members of the Greek Orthodox Church. Shortly before the start of Easter celebrations, they were still waiting for permits to leave the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem or the West Bank. Gaza is tightly closed off by Israel, and people’s movement is severely restricted for security reasons. “Somehow we are still waiting, although it doesn’t look as if we get a permit this time,” said Mazen, a Christian who spoke on the condition that his real name not be used because he still hoped to receive a permit in time for next week’s Orthodox Easter celebrations, when more Christians from all over the world are expected to attend the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.