First published by Palestine Monitor
It was a day of song and prayer in the streets of Jerusalem as religious tourists and pilgrims from all over the world swarmed the Holy City to mourn the sacrificial crucifixion of Jesus.
French, Italian, South American, and Filipino Catholics joined the Russian, Greek, and Armenian Orthodox with Protestants and Chinese, Japanese, Palestinian, and Swiss pilgrims in a day of procession down the Via Dolorosa. According to Christian tradition, the road’s cobblestone follows thirteen points following the path Jesus took to carrying the cross to his own crucifixion. The final and thirteenth point is the Holy Sepulcher, the iconic church central to 2.2 billion Christians. The massed pilgrims were shepherded along by vast amounts of armed Israeli soldiers and police.
“There’s a lot of traffic control making sure that Christians take one way and Muslims the other,” says Omar, who owns a small coffee shop. Good Friday’s celebration mixed with the regular Muslim weekly prayers and the beginning of the Jewish Shabat.
The crowds often surged and broke through Israeli cordons and at times squabbled in a feverish aggression of selfish devotion. The Holy Sepulcher was crammed with people jostling for holier and holier positions, while the Coptic Orthodox Church nearby was a comparative calm of smooth hymns, simple white gowns, and quiet meditation in a courtyard.