For Christians, Easter is a time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ which brought freedom from sin and death. There are many traditions and celebrations around this holiday; one that reflects on Christ as the Savior of all mankind. In Israel, however, this celebratory week in springtime is considered a Holy week for the Jews. It is the Holy week of Passover which celebrates the early Israelites exodus from Egypt and their freedom from slavery. Easter and Passover are a time when both faiths of Judaism and Christianity meet together with the centerpiece of the celebration being in the city Jerusalem. Here we will look at what Easter traditionally looks like in Israel.
Palm Sunday in Israel
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of this celebratory Holy Week. Thousands of Chrisitians climb to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives to revisit Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem when palm branches were placed on the path before him as he rode in on a donkey. Palm branches are symbolic of goodness and victory because of this. After descending the Mount of Olives many continue on to Saint Anne Church, St. Steven’s Gate otherwise known as The Lions Gate, the Old City and then further down the Via Dolorosa. As Christian pilgrims take part in this procession there are still many others that line the route to greet those participating with songs and blessings. Before heading into Good Friday, people can join in on a daily mass held in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden of Gethsemane Church or the Basilica of the Agony.
Good Friday in Israel
Good Friday is significant for Jesus’ journey up to Golgotha where He was crucified. For Christians, it marks the death of Jesus at Calvary and the day He was buried at the tomb. During this part of the week in Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem is packed with people making it worthy of noting in case one desires to beat the crowds. If you do plan to visit, this will surely be one of the most amazing experiences to behold where thousands upon thousands follow the same path that Jesus once walked.
Holy Saturday in Israel
The following day is of course, Holy Saturday where many typically gather in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Here, the annual miracle of the Holy Fire can be seen which is the lighting of the Patriarch’s candle from within the tomb that occurs every year.
Easter in Israel
For many Christians, the highlight of this week is Easter Sunday where services take place come sunrise. In Israel this service takes place at the Garden Tomb where people can gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Not all Jews and Christians, however, agree that Christ was resurrected but the celebrations in reference to Passover are still honored and by all.
Regardless of the differences between religions, the Old City of Jerusalem is lavishly decorated in preparation of Easter. The monks and priests are known to wear all white robes while chanting the liturgy and burning incense above the tomb where Christians believe Jesus Christ was buried and resurrected. All over the city, shops and stores celebrate by having their own decorated displays with many traditional delicacies prepared in honor of this time, though the daily commemorating of the week is considered more significant than any of the feasting or parading celebrations. As Christians celebrate Jesus during this time, the Orthodox Jews celebrate Passover and here one ends up with what Easter looks like in Israel.