Palestinian Christians who are members of the Eatern Orthodox tradition are waiting for the Israeli High Court to make a decision as to whether they will be allowed to practice their freedom of worship for Easter. The petition was submitted by Jerusalem Orthodox institutions and personalities after the Israeli authorities imposed restrictions and reduced the number of Christians they would allow to participate in the “Saturday of Light” celebrations in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
This Church is located at the place where Christians believe that Jesus ascended to heaven, and is an extremely holy site for Christians of all denominations.
While Western Christian churches celebrated Easter last week, the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity is preparing to celebrate the holiday this Sunday April 24th.
In a statement, the Arab Orthodox institutions in Jerusalem, represented by lawyers Elias Khoury and Shady Samar, said, “Orthodox personalities and institutions submitted a petition to the Supreme Court against the decision of the police to restrict the access of Christians to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to reduce the number of people who celebrate the Holy Saturday on the eve of Easter Sunday, in contravention of the most basic human rights, freedom of worship, and international covenants.
“The plaintiffs refused any compromise on the rights of Christians to practice their religious and traditional rites and free access to places of worship without barriers or permits, and a settlement proposal was rejected not to prevent entry to the Old City through the barriers and to allow only four thousand people to access the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and its surroundings, giving the police the right to close the checkpoints if they so choose.
The appeal came after the Israeli government announced they would impose restrictions on the number of entrants to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in occupied Jerusalem on Holy Saturday, which falls at the end of this week and precedes Easter Sunday, according to the eastern calendar.
The Arab Appeal Committee noted that, “the Church of the Holy Sepulcher witnesses severe restrictions on the number of worshipers every year, on Easter holidays, but this year Israel tightened the restrictions, even more, depriving thousands of access to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. These restrictions come in parallel with the restrictions imposed by Israel on entering the Old City of occupied Jerusalem, and on accessing the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which confirms that Israel targets all occupied Jerusalem with its Palestinian national and religious identity.”
Israeli soldiers and settlers have been attacking Palestinian Christians and Muslims at prayer on numerous occasions over the past week – which marks a special holiday on the Christian (Easter), Muslim (Ramadan) and Jewish (Passover) calendars.