The Old City is usually thronging with pilgrims at this time of year as the faithful stream to Jerusalem to celebrate Holy Week. Daily processions and masses mark the events in the last week before Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. 

In a typical year, local Christians from outside Jerusalem cannot even get into the crowded Old City churches during this week. But this year, it is all theirs. Celebrating the second Easter under the shadow of the pandemic, tourists are not allowed into Israel, but unlike last year – when celebrations were limited to clergy – now the locals have a front row seat. 

Easter, for Catholic and Evangelical Christians this year is on April 4. For Orthodox Christians, Easter comes later this year – May 2. Usually the two Easters are closer together and coincide more closely with Passover.

Israel’s Christian minority is a population of between 161,000 to 177,000. About 60% of Israeli Christians belong to the Greek-Catholic Melkite denomination, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, with Greek Orthodox being the second largest denomination, accounting for about 30% of Israeli Christians. Other denominations include Latin, Maronite, Anglican, Lutheran, Armenian, Syrian, Ethiopian, Coptic and other communities. 

A small swath of Evangelicals also comprise the Christian community, some hailing from an indigenous Arab background while others have immigrated to Israel. 

Later Thursday evening, Holy Hour was observed in different languages at the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed with his disciples after the Last Supper and before His arrest.

Today, Good Friday, representatives of the various churches will lead processions with a cross on the Via Dolorosa. In the evening, a symbolic funeral procession will take place in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

Foot washing ceremony on Holy Thursday at the Upper Room or Cenacle, Mount Zion, Jerusalem. (Photo: Nadim Asfour/Custodia Terræ Sanctæ)
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