Tag Archives: Stations of the Cross

Good Friday in the Holy Land

There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham. Black Beauty

Well, we braved the crowds and the weather to spend Good Friday in Jerusalem. My friend so graciously allowed me to spend Thursday night in her house in Beit Safafa, so that we could have an easygoing start to the Good Friday celebrations, since it is in Israeli territory – no checkpoints to cross to get to Jerusalem. This is Beit Safafa, an Arab neighborhood in south Jerusalem, on the outskirts of Bethlehem:

A house in Beit Safafa

Looking out on Beit Safafa and Jerusalem in the background

Remains of an old Palestinian house

Downtown Beit Safafa! Happening place..

Had a chill, relaxing evening on Thursday, and then got up on Friday recharged. There was to be a procession with Franciscan monks through the Stations of the Cross – walking the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked when he was carrying his cross to be crucified at Golgotha (the present-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre) – at 12:15pm. So we had a lazy morning getting ready, and then headed out to meet my friend at the Damascus Gate and then walk to the first station. Of course, it’s also Friday, so there were huge numbers of Muslims walking to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers. The IDF had closed down, with barriers and soldiers blocking the way, the easiest paths to both the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the first station. My friend asked one of the soldiers why they were blocking it off and he answered, “The Crusades.” (Gotta love the aptitude of the IDF). She pushed him a little further, “You mean the Stations of the Cross?” to which he replied, “Yeah, the Crusades.”


When she pushed him a little further, saying that we were here for .. the Crusades (?!), he said no one was allowed through. So we wound our way through the narrow paths and found our way to the first station, with time to spare still. But oh my goodness there were so many people. The ‘streets’ of the Old City are narrow. And the Via Dolorosa winds its way through the heart of the Old City. And there were thousands of people walking along this procession, with shopkeepers and other tourists lining the sides to take pictures of us walking along. It was chaos. It didn’t really feel like much of a religious experience, but it was definitely something.

The masses

The priests led the way, with one priest carrying a loudspeaker on his head (the poor guy), and reading the Stations of the Cross in English, Spanish, and Latin (I think?), and then some prayers along the way. It was sometimes difficult to hear, and so many people there speaking so many different languages, some groups were praying and singing along the whole way. It was fascinating. But also stifling at some points.

But maybe the coolest part of the whole day – so when Jesus died, there was supposedly a solar eclipse, and some crazy weather things happening (an earthquake, etc). Well, yesterday, the weather was ridiculous. When we were riding the bus around 11am, it started a downpour – within 5 minutes, it was over. Then it was cloudy and chilly while we were walking to the first station. Then as we waited for the procession to start, it was sunny and hot (as in, I was sweating). Then, we’re maybe halfway through the procession, and it just starts another downpour again! Without warning, just a crack and the rain started. Then it was sunny again. It seemed very fitting for Good Friday in Jerusalem.

The masses of people attempting to enter the Holy Sepulchre for the last Stations - we didn't make it in

A multitude of crosses



Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself. Robinson Crusoe

Well, I have a little over a month left here, only 4 weekends until my mom gets here and we depart for Istanbul and then home. It’s a time to reflect, definitely, and think of what I’m going to say to people that I’m leaving here and people that I’ll be seeing back in the States; to think about what I’ve done here in my 9 months and what I still want to do in my last one. It’s ironic that as I have all this time on my hands, all of my friends here are busy with work, so I’m gearing up to do some trips on my own and with whoever I can wrangle into missing work!

Two trips that I have somewhat planned for two weekends are (1) the Golan Heights, and (2) the Negev desert.

I really want to see the Golan, I’ve heard it’s the most beautiful place, and there are tons of nature reserves and places to hike and sit and enjoy the scenery. I’m hoping to go next weekend, rent a car, get some friends, and enjoy the spring weather here! It’s quite far north – right along the borders with Syria and Lebanon, so we’ll rent a car and drive, it’s about 3 hours from Jerusalem and then most of the parks and sights are within 30 minutes of each other. So, hopefully this will work out! Fingers crossed.

It’s also the two days before Easter, which I hope to go to Jerusalem for, join the masses of crowds to walk the real Stations of the Cross, where Jesus walked before being crucified at the location where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now is. I can only imagine how ridiculously crowded it will be, though a friend told me, surprisingly, it’s usually not that crowded. We’ll see! I suppose with this Sunday being Palm Sunday I’ll also head to Jerusalem. Maybe I’ll ask around to get a feel for how Easter will be there.

I also really want to go to the Negev desert, there are supposedly some beautiful hiking trails and sights and flora and fauna (and no, I will probably not remember any of the names or be able to recognize any sort of plant that I see, but I can still appreciate its beauty, thank you very much!). That might have to be a trip on my own, because I haven’t heard too much interest from other friends on going, so we’ll see. But I find it hard to resist going to see something like this:

Makhtesh Ramon crater, photo from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makhtesh_Ramon)

So we’ll see how that works out. I have some free time on my hands, in any case!

And of course some day trips back to Nablus and Jenin and I absolutely have to go to Jericho, since I’ve unfortunately never been in my 9 months here, which is practically a sin.

This Saturday, I’m heading to Bethlehem for the TEDxRamallah conference. If you’re familiar with TED talks, it’s this for Palestine – bringing together inspiring individuals on stage from within Palestine and beyond from at least 10 different disciplines to enlighten us with inspirational stories of Palestine. It should be a fascinating day, so I’m uber-excited. Check out the link above, like most TED talks, I think the speakers and performers will be posted online, plus the website has this interesting section called “Palestine Stories,” which is pretty self-explanatory. Enjoy!