Jerusalem - Muslims, Christians and Jews jostled in the narrow
streets of Jerusalem's Old City on Friday, corralled by police
barricades, as the Good Friday processions slowly marched on.
Muslims on their way to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jews heading to the
Western Wall were held up in the crowded streets as thousands of
Christian pilgrims commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by
walking along the Via Dolorosa, Latin for "Way of Sorrow."
Franciscan monks led the way on the annual procession down the route
their predecessors had established in the 14th century. Pilgrims halt
at 14 stations, each marking an event that befell Christ as he
walked, carrying his cross, to his crucifixion.
The final five stations are located inside the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre, a Crusaders' basilica said to be built on the spot where
Jesus was buried.
A group of men, surrounded by Arab Catholic Scouts, carried a heavy,
dark wooden cross on their shoulders, some sweating profusely in the
heat. Prayers in Latin blared from speakers.
After the Franciscan monks at the head of the Roman Catholic
procession had passed, Israeli police allowed onlookers to join the
march. Along the way, they bought small crosses from vendors hawking
"God wanted me to come," said Renald Richer from Canada, who was
visiting Jerusalem for the first time. "I never wanted to come
before, I said: This place is crazy, the people are crazy."
Alexandra Josie, from New Jersey, is on a week-long trip to Israel
with her son. She said she'd found the cities she'd visited peaceful.
Orthodox and Protestant Christians marched through the streets
earlier in the day, with pilgrims in all manner of garb flooding the
Old City, carrying crosses of all sizes and speaking various
Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox believers are celebrating Easter
this year on the same date, a rare occurrence given that Western
churches mark the date according to the Gregorian calendar while
Eastern churches use the Julian.
The next time such an overlap will occur is in 2025, according to the
Greek Orthodox Church.
"I asked Mary [Jesus' biblical mother], and she told me to come to
Jerusalem," said Lena, a Russian Orthodox Christian in Jerusalem for
the first time. "God told me I must be on that flight to Jerusalem."
Lena, who had travelled to Jerusalem on her own with a tour group,
pulled out a pair of sticks that she said she used to ask God
"There will be many disasters this year in all of the world, in
America and Europe. People worldwide need to give glory to God," she
said, explaining why she had made the Good Friday trip.
According to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified on Friday and
rose from the dead the following Sunday, when Easter is celebrated.
Jews, meanwhile, are celebrating the week-long festival of Passover,
which commemorates the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt.
The Israeli Tourism Ministry estimates that 79 500 Christian and
78 500 Jewish tourists will visit the country during their respective
Israeli police stepped up security amid the Jewish and Christian
holidays, with a wide range of units being put in action, according
to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Various checkpoints were set up across Jerusalem's Old City as
security officers redirected confused tourists and residents alike in
an attempt to maintain peace.