In Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians hold scaled-down Good Friday services

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hundreds of Christians attend a customary event good friday Crowds were noticeably thinner as the procession marched through the limestone walls of Jerusalem’s Old City to mark one of the faith’s holiest days Israel and Hamas war.

The day’s parade usually attracts thousands of foreign tourists, but this one had an unusually local feel. Most of the observers were Palestinian Christians, along with a few foreigners living in Jerusalem and a few undaunted tourists.

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The traditional Good Friday procession follows the Stations of the Cross, or Stations of the Cross, which are believed to have been walked by Jesus during his crucifixion. Israeli police squads set up roadblocks along the road, rerouting shoppers in the bustling Muslim quarter of the Old City to make way for hundreds of pilgrims.

Christians walk the Way of the Cross during a Good Friday procession to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday, March 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

A group of young Palestinian Arab Scouts led the day’s procession through 14 stations along the way, each marking an event on Jesus’ final journey. Hundreds of Palestinian Christians followed. Behind them was a small procession of the Franciscan religious order, composed mainly of foreigners living in Jerusalem.

“We wait for this day every year,” said Munira Kamar, a Palestinian Christian from the Old City, as she watched the procession pass and waved hello to the cross bearers, who stopped. gave her little girl a kiss on the cheek. “Of course, this year we are unhappy because of the ongoing war situation.”

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After Hamas carried out killings and took hostages in Israel on October 7, Israel launched a sustained offensive in Gaza, killing thousands of Palestinians.

The procession’s final stop is inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and rested before his resurrection on Easter. There, the impact of the war was evident: instead of queuing for hours in the church courtyard as usual, people had easy access to the site.

The city’s streets were conspicuously absent from Palestinian Christians from the West Bank, who usually flock to the holy city for Easter celebrations. Since October 7, Palestinian worshipers have required special permission to enter Jerusalem through checkpoints.

Although the crowds are thin, the shopkeepers’ thick metal doors, usually closed on Fridays, remain open to visitors seeking Catholic souvenirs. But interested shoppers were few and far between.

“Last year’s Easter celebrations were like daylight compared to this year’s. No one was here. Most people were locals,” said Fayaz Dakkak, a Palestinian shop owner with family members. The store was first opened in 1942. His store is empty. “Usually today people are happy and the children are excited. But when you compare the children here who have water, food and families to what is happening in Gaza, how can you be happy?”

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2022 International Religious Freedom Report, an estimated 50,000 Palestinian Christians live in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The report states that approximately 1,300 Christians live in Gaza.Some Christians are also citizens of Israel. Many Palestinian Christians live in diaspora communities.

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Some tourists braved the day. Carmen Rose, a lawyer living in Jerusalem, managed to gather a group of pilgrims from Spain to go on a religious journey to the country. The group rested in the shade outside the church.

“They were scared of the situation at first,” she said, “but I told them in Jerusalem that it is safe here, we are not violent. We are close to Gaza, but Christians are not targets of terrorism. “

The celebrations coincide with the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with worshipers once again flocking to the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayers. Despite fears that the ongoing war could spark clashes at the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque, the month has so far passed peacefully under tight Israeli security.

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Sister Harriet Kabaj, a pilgrim from Uganda who moved to Jerusalem three weeks ago to live in a convent, said she was praying for the people of Gaza. She said she believed peace could be achieved in the region.

“Many people think the war here is natural,” she said. “But when Jesus was in Bethlehem, it was peaceful. We know the people of Gaza are suffering, so we pray for them and that peace can return to the land,” she said.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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