Jerusalem24 – Freedom of worship remains uncertain under the Israeli occupation particularly in East Jerusalem, and as Easter Approaches Palestinians who want to worship at Holy Sepulchre fear the obstruction of freedom of movement caused by Israeli occupation forces; nevertheless the Covid-19 situation make things even more intricate.
The Holy Sepulchre Church is the main holy site, it is where the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ took place, and that’s why the major celebrations are held there.
The celebrations are not limited to Easter day only, but also the Holy Saturday ceremony which is a day before Easter. When the Holy Fire pours from Christ’s tomb, from which it is distributed to all Palestinian cities and even to the world.
For Garo Nalbandian, a Palestinian Armenian photographer who covers events in Jerusalem for the past 64 years now, “Easter in Jerusalem is different, as it’s the heart of the feast, except that Israeli forces ruin the spiritual celebrations by tightening on Palestinians in every means possible and making unfair restrictions on them only to say that they exist and we are under their control.”
Every year Palestinians need permits to enter Jerusalem for feasts, but with covid-19 everything has become even worse. Last year people were not able to celebrate normally and numbers were limited from all communities.
This year corona still obstructs celebrations in Jerusalem; the Israeli authorities in the holy month of Ramadan prevented unvaccinated Palestinians from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque. The situation is not clear till now from the Israeli authorities on how the celebrations of Easter will be, and whether Palestinians from the West Bank will make it to the city or not; especially as there’s no tourism.
Many Palestinians request permits, they are often refused, and the Israeli authorities are not required to give a reason. Nareen Mansour from Bethlehem, like many other Christian Palestinians who try to get permits to visit Jerusalem on Easter week. Otherwise, Nareen will await the Holy fire in Bethlehem.
“Even if we get permits to visit the Holy Sepulchre, the Israeli police continue to ruin celebrations with their acts of racism; they refuse to see Palestinian flags in the celebrations and even on the scouts’ shirts”.
-Nareen Mansour, Palestinian Christian
Because of Covid-19, celebrations are heavily restricted, anyone should be vaccinated to get a permit. ” Israel is taking advantage of the pandemic to prevent us from going to Jerusalem and Praying at the Holy Sepulchre, and some have taken two doses and still didn’t get a permit.” Nareen says.