Palm Sunday in the Holy Land

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. Rumi

It was quite a weekend! Friday, some of us went to the beach in Tel Aviv for the day, after an arduous wait at the Qalandia checkpoint. It was Friday, the day for prayer, so it’s usually a crowded day at the checkpoint, but we thought we had left early enough to dodge some of the traffic, but we stood in line, in that degrading place with hundreds of other people, waiting to walk through turnstiles to walk through a metal detector to show your passport to some of the rudest people you’ll ever meet and then finally walk through another turnstile to walk on the other side. After a little bit more than an hour of waiting, we were through and enjoyed as best we could the rest of the day at the beach and the yummiest place to eat – the Old Man by the Sea in Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv.

Saturday, we attended the TEDxRamallah conference (though held in Bethlehem because the venue in Ramallah is under construction). It was an interesting day and I’ll blog about it soon, because it deserves its own blog post, but look here to watch the speeches online. Some of the best talks were Alice Walker, Suad Amiry, Khaled Al Sabawi, Huwaida Arraf, and others.

But yesterday was Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem before his death. In Jerusalem, there is a procession from Bethphage on the Mount of Olives to St. Anne’s Church in the Old City. Bethphage is where Jesus picked up the donkey to ride into Jerusalem. So, some friends and I left Ramallah around 11:30 and … got stuck at Qalandia, again. We didn’t even get to Jerusalem until almost 1:45.

The Christian community in Palestine (Kairos Palestine) has issued a statement decrying the lack of freedom of movement for all religious pilgrims who wish to be in Jerusalem to celebrate the Holy Week – see it here. The statement points out that ‘in every country that respects (and practices) freedom of worship, they do so without ‘restrictions from the governing authorities.’ It bemoans the fact that the occupying power has denied access to Holy places of worship to both Christians and Muslims. Kairos Palestine decries the unjust and one-sided policy which compels Christians and Muslims to apply for permits to enter while Jews continue to have free access. At best, not more than two or three thousand Palestinians Christians will receive entry permits.

Once in Jerusalem, we cabbed it to the Mount of Olives, to Bethphage, where we joined the thousands of others gathered on the sidewalks to wait for the procession to start. Then the procession started, with a group of priests leading the way, then the scouts groups (so cute!), and then the masses of people trailing behind. The sight of all of the palm fronds waving in the air, the groups that brought music instruments and were singing, the very atmosphere of starting the Holy Week in the Holy Land, was phenomenal.  There were also some of the greatest views of the Old City from the Mount of Olives, looking clear over to the Dome of the Rock.

So we joined in the procession!

There are a couple other pictures that won’t load, so hopefully I can post those tomorrow. These pictures don’t do justice to the living and vibrant atmosphere, the music and drums and loudspeakers, and choirs singing, and the huge variety of nationalities and languages you could see and hear. It was electric.

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