Jerusalem – Thousands of Christians waving palm fronds above their heads retraced the journey taken by Jesus to Jerusalem in the traditional Palm Sunday procession that marks the start of the holiest week of the Christian calendar.
Pilgrims from abroad joined local Christians to celebrate the procession from the Mount of Olives through the gates of Jerusalem’s walled Old City. The march retraces Jesus’ triumphant entry intoJerusalem five days before he was crucified.
“It’s a wonderful procession. A great joy … It is wonderful being with all my brothers and sisters,” said Martin, a pilgrim from Switzerland.
Christians, some with their children on their shoulders, sang hymns as they joined clerics dressed in religious attire in retracing Jesus’ journey into the holy city almost 2000 years ago on the back of a donkey. Those who had attended previous commemorations said it was much larger than last year.
In Jerusalem’s Old City, worshippers lit candles and prayed at Palm Sunday services at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified. Pilgrims prayed alongside sacred relics in the church associated with the crucifixion and resurrection.
In the nearby West Bank city of Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians also marked the holy day by attending Mass at the Church of the Nativity, which marks the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.
But outside the church, hundreds of Palestinian Christians held a protest demanding that Israel allow them to enter Jerusalem to participate in the annual Easter rituals. The protesters waved olive branches and palm leaves during the rally and children held signs saying: “They will not stop us.”
Sami Awad, one of the organizers, said: “It is not enough for us just to be in Bethlehem and to pray inBethlehem. We have the right to be in Jerusalem on this day to celebrate with our Christian brothers and sisters in the holy city over there.”
Israeli officials said, however, that 3700 Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank would be allowed to enter Jerusalem to take part in Easter services.
By Michele Green
Reprinted with permission from ENI