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In the Holy Land, World’s Christians Celebrate

Christian pilgrims carry palm branches during the traditional Palm Sunday procession on 24 March on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. Also known as Passion Sunday, this first day of Holy Week commemorates Christ’s triumphal entry in to Jerusalem before his crucifixion. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill) 

25 Mar 2013 – By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) — The winding road from the Mount of Olives to the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem was alive with music and song in many languages as global pilgrims joined local Christian Palestinians in the traditional Palm Sunday procession commemorating Jesus’ entry into the city.

“This is the only day in the year we as Christians can close the roads of Old Jerusalem,” said 44-year-old George Khoury, a Jerusalem Catholic.

Khoury and his wife took pictures of a group of singing and dancing Filipino workers from Jaffa’s St. Anthony Parish who were playing guitars and waving palm fronds as the colorful procession began.

“We are happy to see international groups come to share this with us, supporting us here,” he said.

Khoury said every year the couple brings their three children — now 5, 7 and 14 — to show them how special it is to have been born and to live in the city where Jesus died and rose from the dead. He said he hoped when they are older they will realize how important it is for them to remain in the Holy Land.

A man leading a group of Protestant pilgrims from South Korea did circular half-leaping steps and beat on a traditional metal drum with a large drumstick trimmed with white macramé and yellow and pink yarn. A young boy carried a large double-sided wooden drum across his chest, keeping time with the pilgrims, who were singing hymns in their language.

Polish pilgrims sang as they walked. French pilgrims carrying palm fronds and olive branches sang quietly as the procession wound three miles down the hillside of the Mount of Olives, along a path that edged an ancient Jewish cemetery. The Old City walls loomed ahead as pilgrims descended to the Kidron Valley, with the golden Muslim Dome of the Rock shrine commanding the horizon.

Several thousand Christians took part in the procession. Representatives of local Palestinian parishes carried banners bearing the word “Palestine,” the name of their parish, and their distances from Jerusalem. They also carried a banner replica of an Israeli Civil Administration travel permit that Christian Palestinians living in the West Bank need in order to enter Jerusalem during Easter.

“I am one of the lucky ones who has the privilege to enter Jerusalem to participate in the procession,” said Maha Sleiby, 27, a Catholic from Bethlehem, West Bank, who said she had not been able to come for several years because she had not received a permit. “It means a lot to be able to be here and pray together with all fellow Palestinians and Christians from all over the world.”

Though Palestinians claimed that only half of the 50,000 permit requests were approved by Israel, the Israeli government said it rejected only 192 of the 19,000 requests it had received — because of security reasons.

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Tags: Jerusalem Palestine Holy Land Christianity Easter