Celebrating Easter in Israel
Every year, thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world flock to Israel, to celebrate the Easter and Passover holidays.
Over 100,000 are expected this year, around 17 percent more than last year, according to Israel's Ministry of Tourism.
The three days of Holy Week, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, commenced yesterday. According to the Bible, Palm Sunday is the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by crowds waving palm fronds.
Good Friday, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus, and Easter Sunday is celebrated two days later. On that day, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was resurrected. Passover begins today evening.
Every year, the old city of Jerusalem hosts Traditional Easter celebrations, including a procession on Good Friday, when Christian pilgrims from around the world walk the Via Dolorosa path to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where it is believed Jesus was buried. The route starts at the Lion's Gate on the east side of the old city and concludes at the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian quarter in the west of the old city. It is believed that the Via Dolorosa marks the route along which Jesus walked carrying the cross on which he would be crucified.[Religionfacts.com]
The Christian population of Israel is growing, with the population expected to reach around 146,000 by the end of 2010.
Israel's Declaration of Independence, issued in 1948, describes the country as a Jewish state, but extends religious freedoms to all of its inhabitants by stating that Israel "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions."
Israeli laws protect all holy sites and ensure access to people of all religions, but a significant number of Jewish and Christian holy sites have been damaged or vandalized in Gaza and the West Bank because the Palestinian Authority does not protect holy sites.
The Israel Project contributed information for this story.
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