Palestinian Christians were barred from entering the Old City of Jerusalem on Easter Israel War on Gaza News

During the war in Gaza, the usual crowds of pilgrims from other countries are absent, and Palestinians face ‘unprecedented’ restrictions.

As Christians around the world prepare for Easter, Palestinians in the country where the religion was born are facing restrictions on entering the Old City of Jerusalem for the event.

Although at least 200 leaders from busy West Bank given permits to enter the area, their congregations are not allowed to participate in these services, said Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, who is based in East Jerusalem.

The restrictions were “unprecedented,” Khan said as a group of worshippers, smaller than the Good Friday crowds, walked the Via Dolorosa – the route Jesus is said to have followed on his way to the crucifixion 2,000 years ago.

The Old City is empty because of war in Gazabut Palestinian Christians “wanted” to visit their places of worship, Khan said.

“Palestinian Christians from the occupied West Bank – not foreigners who are not far away because of the war in Gaza – these are the people who want to come to the Old City to celebrate Easter, but they are not allowed to.”

Christians are often given the opportunity to do this East Jerusalem, he said, even Palestinian Muslims face restrictions. Up to Al-Aqsa Mosque it is denied to men under 65 years of age and women under 50 years of age on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month. Ramadan.

‘Dark days’

“These are very dark days, very difficult days,” said Reverend Munther Isaac, speaking to Al Jazeera from Bethlehem in the West Bank. “I think the restrictions this year have increased. Even for us here in Bethlehem – and Jerusalem is 20 minutes from here – we don’t have access.

“Jerusalem is very important to us, especially at Easter. We are used to… praying in the church Church of the Holy Sepulcher,” he said.

“This is part of our daily life under occupation. The war has increased our pain because of the growth of death and killing.”

Fayaz Dakkak, owner of a family shop that sells religious souvenirs, said he did not expect to sell out. As the war raged, crowds from around the world never descended on the city to visit the 12th-century Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the place where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried and resurrected.

“We will not be comfortable this time because there is history. If you pass through any gate, whether it is the Damascus Gate, the New Gate, the Jaffa Gate, a policeman or a soldier feels that you are not Israeli, you are stopped, you are searched,” he said.

“A lot of times, it’s not fun,” he added. While some members of security check IDs directly, others are “aggressive”, he said.

Rafi, a Christian youth coordinator, said Israeli settlers he made the Old City almost a no-go place. He said: “Even before the war, we saw colonialists attacking churches and even Christian cemeteries.

“They were attacking every priest or nun walking inside Jerusalem. Even pilgrims walk the Way of the Cross [Via Dolorosa] he was being attacked.”

Worshipers carry a cross as they take part in the Good Friday Via Dolorosa procession in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 29, 2024. [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Many Palestinian Christians from the West Bank who have been arrested have been banned from walking the Via Dolorosa this year.

Even before the war, a Palestinian Christian had to ask permission to visit the Old City before the celebrations. Last year, the Greek Orthodox Church condemned what it called Israel’s “weight restrictions” on the issue of freedom of worship during Easter.

Israeli police said the border was needed for security at this time “Holy Fire” The celebration at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where the flame taken from the tomb of Jesus in the church is used to light the candles of the worshipers. Christian leaders said there is no need to change a tradition that has been practiced for centuries and they believe it is part of the tradition. Israel’s ongoing policy push the Palestinians out of their country.

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