All day, pilgrims have been carting wooden crosses along the Via Dolorosa, following the footsteps Jesus took nearly 2,000 years ago. They stop along the way at 14 stations of the cross for prayer and recitation of the liturgy.
Christians descended on Jerusalem’s Old City in the same way they have every year, but this year, Easter and the Jewish Passover coincide so the religious happenings merge within the city. Growing tensions in and around al-Aqsa mosque this year are also part of the dynamic in the Old City, the site that has always been holy to Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
On Good Friday Israeli police cordoned off parts of the Via Dolorosa, Latin for the “Way of Suffering,” as the procession of Christian pilgrims traveled toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Pilgrims packed behind cordons as Israeli border police gradually allowed them to trickle through on their way to the church. They were then herded around the holiest places within the church.
The Old City has always been an assault on the senses, but during Easter processions the three religions became gridlocked as they tried to move amongst one another.
The narrow streets surrounding Via Dolorosa are lined with shops selling spices, underwear, imported incense, painted pottery, kitchenware, crosses and religious memorabilia, head scarves and keffiyeh, pro-Israel T-shirts and others calling to “free Palestine.”
The streets became alive as nuns, priests, ultra-Orthodox Jews and devout Muslims, non-religious tourists, pilgrims, residents and armed Israeli border police were all woven together.
On Monday police arrested five Jews suspected of intending to sacrifice a goat at the al-Aqsa mosque complex – an attempt to re-enact an ancient Passover ritual. The Jews managed to smuggle the goat through strict bag inspections on entry.
Tensions at the complex remained high during the week. Thirty Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli police on Wednesday when the compound was opened to Jewish visitors.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said Palestinians threw rocks and firecrackers and police and police responded with stun grenades and close the complex to Jewish visitors.
Dozens of Palestinians were wounded by rubber-coated bullets and stun grenade canisters. Many remained inside al-Aqsa mosque out of fear of being arrested when they tried to leave.
Jewish fringe groups have vowed to build a third temple on the site Jewish people call Temple Mount.
A Palestinian shop owner in the Old City, Basem Hallak, told DW that Muslims had been forced to pray in the street within the Old City.
“Tensions have been high and many Muslims have had to find alternative places to worship to avoid trouble,” he said.
On Good Friday Palestinians lined the streets of Khan az-Zait and al Wad streets, laying out prayer mats as it became difficult during Christian processions to get access into the mosque as Israeli border police blocked some access.
Member of the PLO’s executive committee for Jerusalem affairs Ahmed Qurei condemned the police attacks saying it constituted “aggressive racism.”
“The persistence of the Israeli occupation authorities is a continued attempt at Judaization of al-Aqsa mosque,” he said.
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DW fails to note that Orthodox and Western Easter are on the same day this year, greatly increasing the crowds. Also note that the Temple Mount has no special significance for Christians.
The modern young people of Europe–who wrote this article–must know next to nothing about Christianity.
As usual, it is Muslims being obnoxious that is causing most of the problems.