In Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians observe scaled-down Good Friday celebrations – Boston Herald

JULIA FRANKEL (Associated Press)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hundreds of Christians participated in a customary Good Friday procession through the limestone walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, commemorating one of the faith’s most sacred days with noticeably thinner crowds amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The day’s processions, which normally draw thousands of foreign visitors, were unusually local. Most observers were Palestinian Christians, joined by some foreigners living in Jerusalem and a few undeterred tourists.

The traditional Good Friday procession passes along the Way of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa, the route believed to have been walked by Jesus to his crucifixion. Squads of Israeli police set up barricades along the path, rerouting shoppers in the Old City’s bustling Muslim quarter to make way for hundreds of pilgrims.

A young group of Palestinian Arab scouts led the day’s procession, past the 14 stations along the route, each marking an event that befell Jesus on his final journey. Hundreds of Palestinian Christians walked in their wake. Behind them was a small parade of the Franciscan religious order, composed mainly of foreigners who live in Jerusalem.

“We wait for this every year,” said Munira Kamar, a Palestinian Christian from the Old City, who watched the parade pass, waving hello to cross-bearers, who stopped to give her young daughter a kiss on the cheek. “Of course, this year we are unhappy because of the situation with the ongoing war.”

Thousands of Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s ongoing offensive in Gaza, launched after Hamas’ Oct. 7 killings and hostage-taking in Israel. Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union.

The procession’s final stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and laid to rest before his resurrection on Easter. There, the impact of the war was clear: instead of the crowds who normally queue for hours in the church courtyard, entrance to the site was easy.

The city’s streets were noticeably devoid of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank, who normally flock to the Holy City for the Easter festivities. Since Oct. 7, Palestinian worshippers have needed special permission to cross checkpoints into Jerusalem.

Despite the thinned crowds, shopkeepers, whose heavy metal doors are usually closed on Fridays, threw them open in for tourists seeking Catholic memorabilia. But interested shoppers were few and far between.

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