Palm Sunday + the start of Easter Week in Jerusalem

Today is Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, the start of Easter Week.

Palestinian + Israeli Christians and tourists from around the world are now going to a procession following the path that Jesus is believed to have taken some 1,979 years or so ago, when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted by followers carrying palm fronds…

The procession will start in the shadow of the Wall that divides Bethany [Eizariyya] from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shayyah, lying on the Bethlehem side of the Mount of Olives, and will continue down the hill [Suwaneh] and into the Old City of East Jerusalem.

This photo of today’s procession is posted with the AP story that is published on the Times of Israel website, here: Procession down the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday - photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90 published by the Times of Israel[p.s. – that’s Mordechai Vanuni marching just under and to the right of the white megaphone in the photo’s upper center]

The AP story that the Times of Israel used for its coverage reported that “Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it expects 125,000 visitors during Holy Week and 300,000 throughout April, when Jews celebrate Passover — a 5 percent increase from last year”.

While Christians from around the world make the Israeli Tourism Ministry happy, not every Palestinian Christian is able to participate in these religious rites.

    UPDATE: Akiva Eldar reported in Haaretz on 4 April here that “The dwindling Christian community in the territories and East Jerusalem is considered a relatively moderate group. Few of its sons and daughters commit the sin of violence, and few occupy Israeli prison cells. Hence, the palm frond procession that marched from the Mount of Olives to the Old City on Sunday may provide a barometer for the Palestinian mood, in light of the current freeze in diplomatic negotiations between Israel and the leadership in Ramallah, and the reconciliation talks underway between the leadership in Ramallah and the leadership in Gaza. For the first time ever, clergymen violated the permits they received to hold the annual religious march, when they added a political tone to the event by holding up placards denouncing restrictions on freedom of worship in Jerusalem…”

We have reported previously on the difficulties for Palestinian Muslims living in the Ramallah-controlled West Bank or Gaza to enter Israeli territory to worship at the Haram as-Sharif.

Now, here are some of the difficulties for the dwindling communities of Palestinian Christians, as explained by a fact-sheet sent around by the P.L.O. Negotiations Affairs Department [as I wrote, a series of five Tweets, this morning]}

(1) PLO – Negotiations Affairs Dept: “for Palestinian Christians at Easter … being in Jerusalem is central to their religious activities”

(2) PLO: Last Easter, one year ago, 15,000 Christian Palestinians applied for a permit to enter Jlem, but Israel issued around 2500 permits

(3) PLO: Israel issues permits randomly; often to 1 or 2 members of a family, so permits may not even be used, as families opt to stay at home together

(4) PLO: Palestinian ID holders who do get permits can only enter Jerusalem through one of 3 crowded and dangerous military checkpoints…[and they will have to change vehicles and walk through, no matter the weather or congestion, which is not very agreeable while dressed in one’s best Easter finery]

(5) PLO: Bethlehem district Palestinians are the most affected by inability to reach Jerusalem holy sites. [Ramallah area, too, + Gaza]

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