Monthly Archives: April 2011

Easter in Jerusalem

The sky was clear — remarkably clear — and the twinkling of all the stars seemed to be but throbs of one body, timed by a common pulse. Far From the Madding Crowd

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, we decided to brave the crowds once again to descend on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem for Easter Sunday mass. Thankfully, I had a friend driving from Ramallah to Jerusalem early in the morning, and so I caught a ride with her and got to the Damascus Gate early. I walked with a friend into the Old City for a cup of coffee before meeting another friend at the Gate around 9:30. There didn’t seem to be that many people in the old City when we were just sitting around, which was a pleasant surprise.

And actually, when we got to the Church a little before 10am, for a 10:30 mass, there was not the huge crowd that we were expecting! We walked right in, and around to the tomb of Jesus, where the Catholics were creating an alter for the mass. There were these benches that some people were sitting on, but didn’t have any reserved signs, so my friend and I sat down on one, second row! When a priest came over, I was sure he was going to kick us out, but he just handed us a mass booklet. Whew.

Then the bells rang and the organ sang the procession of priests began.

Sorry for the blurry picture, I was too excited to hold still!

It was beautiful to see! Then, after the priests all filed past us, there was a procession of “important people.” Before the important people reached us, one of the guys in the colored outfit (in the picture above) came over and told us we had to leave our seats. Hm. So where should we go?

So with all the TV cameras and all the tourists eyes on us, we had to leave our seats, and push and squeeze our way past the important people and all the tourists to get out of the way. I hope the TV cameras edited out the two girls who were sitting in the wrong section at the Easter mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and had to push their way out after the service began. Sigh. Awkward.

So we ended up standing for the mass, which was perfectly fine; again there weren’t that many people there so you didn’t feel too crowded or pushed, and I could see the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, though we couldn’t hear anything that he, or the other speakers, were saying, because there were no microphones. Intriguing. But, everyone sang and it was really a beautiful event to be a part of. The Church itself is kind of a tense place – it is ‘shared’ by like 6 denominations, and all the priests of the different denominations are aggressive about their ‘parts’ of the church. So even during the Catholic mass, the Orthodox priests are yelling and moving around behind us. Not the most religiously friendly place.

How close we were before getting kicked out of our seats.The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal

After mass, we sat at a sweets shop in the Old City and had a mix of traditional Palestinian sweets, while waiting for my friend, who is from Jerusalem, to meet us for lunch. We walked a bit away from the Old City, into Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, for lunch at this beautiful outdoor patio space of a restaurant called Borderline. The food was good, but the weather and the company were absolutely wonderful.

On our return to Ramallah, my friend and I had about an hour to kill before we had other engagements, so we sat at the Ramallah city park, grabbed a lemonade with mint and an argileh, and it really was a perfect way to spend a (non-traditional) Easter Sunday. We chatted, watched the kids play, soaked up some sun, and enjoyed ourselves! Then, I had an Easter potluck ‘dinner’ to go to, so I grabbed some cookies from the nearby bakery and headed over to the house of a boss of my friend’s – a beautiful place with a huuuuuuuuge backyard, where she had set up dinner for us. It was quite a feast, and I wasn’t really that hungry from all that I had already eaten, but of course I tasted almost everything.

Friends and conversation in gorgeous weather – you can’t go wrong!

Pretty day

Then, I went with a friend of mine to a memorial service for Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian peace activist who was killed in Gaza a few weeks ago. It was held in a parking lot in Ramallah, and people were invited to speak for 30 seconds, addressing Vittorio’s mother. There was supposed to be a live feed to her in Italy, but it failed, so Al Jazeera was taping it. Then, there was supposed to be a live feed to Gaza as well, but there were quite a lot of technical difficulties. Otherwise, it was a moving event, and Rim al Banna sang and everyone sang along with her (minus the internationals who didn’t know the words to the songs).

Later in the night, I met some friends at a restaurant just for some tea, which was a great end to a great day.

Happy Easter to all!