Christian Palestinians and pilgrims from around the world marked Good Friday, today, by holding a procession on Via Dolorosa, in the historic Old City of annexed East Jerusalem. Security was tight as thousands of worshipers, some bearing wooden crosses, walked through the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where they believe Jesus was crucified and buried before rising from the dead, three days later.
Jerusalem traditionally hosts large celebrations during the week leading up to the Easter holiday, most notably on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
Last week, 850 Christian Palestinians of different ages from the Gaza Strip received permits from Israeli authorities to celebrate Easter in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
This is the first time such a large number of Christians from Gaza received permits to travel to the West Bank and Jerusalem, Muhammad al-Maqadma, a public information officer for the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs told Ma‚Äôan News Agency last week.
East Jerusalem, including the historic Old City, was occupied by Israeli forces in 1967 and later annexed, in a move not recognized by the international community.
In past years, Christian celebrations in Jerusalem during the week leading up to Easter have been subjected to stringent Israeli security measures, with increased numbers of checkpoints and military closures around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Israeli restrictions on Palestinian Christian worship during the holiday has in the past prevented thousands of Christian Palestinians from traveling to Jerusalem and has led to chaotic scenes in the city itself.