Every year, around March/April, begins one of the holiest weeks in Israel, both for Jews and Christians. Jews celebrate Pessach (Passover), probably the most seriously taken of all Jewish holidays; Christians in the Holy Land are here for Easter, which kicks off with Palm Sunday and continues through to the following Sunday, Easter Sunday.
Palm Sunday sees thousands of Christian pilgrims march from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, retracing the steps of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a white donkey where he was met by crowds of well-wishers waving palm leaves in celebration (hence “Palm” Sunday).
The same week sees the big family meal to celebrate Pessach, otherwise known as the seder. There’ll be lots of food, lots of singing along to the story of how the Jews escaped from Egypt, and plenty of wine flowing. The party continues into the next day, a national holiday; expect the roads to be choc a-block, and anything resembling a tourist site to be packed to the rafters. The national parks will also likely be filled to overflowing, with the overpowering smell of smoked meat wafting through the spring air.
Friday is, of course, Good Friday, a somber time for Christians who commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. It’s a very moving experience to be in Jerusalem on this day, and well worth watching from the sidelines. Witnessing the passion and emotions felt by some people is simply very moving.
Good Friday is then followed by Easter Saturday, which in Jerusalem also means the remarkable “Holy Fire“, one of those hard-to-believe myths that still never ceases to draw attention and wonder. Again, if you’re in Jerusalem, it’s well worth checking out for a taste of the emotions overflowing in the Holy City. And then, on Sunday, it’s Easter Sunday, one of the most important religious events in the Christian calendar which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, two days after Good Friday.
Powerful, religious, moving times in the Holy Land!
A tidbit of information that’ll have you on the edge of your seats: Rarely do all the Christian faith calendars fall into line, but now and again the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches actually celebrate Holy Week on the same dates.
And whatever your faith, we wish you Happy Holidays!