Palestinian Christians prevented from Easter pilgrimage to Jerusalem since 1967
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/20/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Palestinian Christians feel the sting of segregation acutely during Holy Week. Strict, Israeli restrictions on movement prevents their access to holy sites in nearby Jerusalem. Many holy sites have remained out of reach in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967. Israel at that time defied international law to occupy and effectively annex East Jerusalem, home to the city's most sacred sites. Palestinians wishing to visit the city is through a special permit issued by Israeli authorities.
Israel issues some permits to both Christians and Muslims during religious holidays, but this can be a lengthy and bureaucratic process. Permits are usually issued to older, married Palestinians.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Having access to the Holy City or to churches there especially at this time of year is our normal right as Palestinians," one of the lucky few who have been granted permission to visit says. "It should not be associated with anything political."
"It is very painful to see people coming from the whole world, from places [as far as] Japan, and they can easily reach the holy sites while our people and Christians from Iraq, Jordan and other [Arab] countries cannot," another Christian says.
In lieu of celebrating in Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinians gathered at the Greek Catholic Church in Ramallah's Old City to solemnly commemorate Good Friday.
Palestinian Christians there re-enacted the burial of Jesus, along with a lengthy ritual of prayer, Gospel recitations and hymn singing. Later, the Catholic congregation joined Greek Orthodox worshippers from a nearby church.
Both Orthodox and Catholic churches, which normally mark Easter at different times, celebrated the holiday the same week; also coinciding with the Jewish Passover.
Restrictions on Palestinian movement were tightened further after Israel first started erecting a separation barrier in 2002. Only about 20 percent of the structure, made of concrete slabs and fences, follows the internationally recognized border between Israel and the West Bank known as the Green Line.
The structure effectively barred Palestinians, from all different religious backgrounds, from entering Jerusalem without Israeli permission.
Israel issues some permits to both Christians and Muslims during religious holidays, but this can be a lengthy and bureaucratic process. Permits are usually issued to older, married Palestinians; and Christians have to apply through their churches and parishes. The number of permits issued are not always reflective of the population, and do not always get issued on time.
Some 17,000 permits were issued to Christians inside the West Bank this year, and 600 in the Gaza Strip.
For the faithful here, Jerusalem is often thought of as an impossibly far-away destination, despite it being only some 50 miles away. "In the past 10 years, I have not been issued a permit for the Christian holidays," one Gaza-based mother of three says.
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