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Israel bans Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

March 25, 2024 at 10:09 am

People holding palm leaves, march from Mount of Olive to Damascus Gate as part of the Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem on March 24, 2024. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

Israel banned thousands of Palestinian Christians in the occupied West Bank from entering the occupied city of Jerusalem to participate in Palm Sunday celebrations in advance of the Western church dates for Easter next weekend. Israeli troops were out in force at checkpoints surrounding Jerusalem and in the vicinity of the Old City.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, presided over the Palm Sunday Mass on Sunday morning at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. The service was attended by bishops and priests, as well as monks, nuns, and a limited number of worshippers, mostly from Jerusalem itself and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Israeli authorities require Muslim and Christian Palestinians to obtain special permits to cross military checkpoints surrounding the holy city and have access to places of worship, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They also place restrictions on issuing permits, requiring Palestinians to possess a “card” issued by the Israel army after conducting what it calls a “security check” of the applicant. After that, Palestinians have to download a special app on their mobile devices and apply for a permit. Such permit applications are usually rejected.

Churches have cancelled all forms of celebrations of the holidays in light of the ongoing Israeli military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, apart from masses, prayers and religious rituals.

A limited number of Christian pilgrims from around the world arrived in Jerusalem for Palm Sunday because many airlines cancelled flights due to the continued aggression in Gaza and the severe restrictions imposed by Israel on the entry of foreigners from Jordan.

The churches in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho and Gaza that follow the Western calendar celebrated Palm Sunday. Churches in the unified governorates of Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin, meanwhile, will celebrate Easter according to the Eastern calendar.

In Bethlehem, a Palm Sunday Mass was held in the Latin Church of Saint Catherine, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity. Masses were also held in various Catholic churches in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, and in the city of Jericho.

In Gaza City, Palm Sunday Mass was held in the Holy Family Latin Church, despite the difficult circumstances imposed by the ongoing Israeli military offensive.

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