Top 10 must do experiences over Easter and Passover in the Holy Land

March 23, 2015 16:26

Experience the holidays through a unique historic and biblical lens.

Christians in Jerusalem

A Christian woman outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo credit: ARIEL COHEN)

In the midst of planning you Easter or Passover tour to the Holy Land and can’t figure what to do? With so many fantastic historical and religious sites coupled with the multitude of cultural experiences, it is overwhelming to decide where you should visit. The spring holidays usher in so many  festivities and unique religious experiences there is no better time than now to start planning what to do during the upcoming holidays.

1. Join the Palm Sunday and/or Good Friday Processions

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Participate in the Palm Sunday and the Good Friday Processions. The Palm Sunday procession is held on Sunday March 29, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. and commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. 

Approximately 5,000 to 10,000 people are expected to join this event. The procession is led by the Latin Patriarchate and begins at Bethphage and continues into the Old City entering through the St. Stephen's Gate and ending at the Church of St. Anne.

The Good Friday procession (Via Crucis) is at 11:30 a.m. The Procession is led by the Franciscan Friars and begins at the First Station of the Cross in the Old City. The walk follows the path that Jesus took on the day of his death, known as the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. According to Father Juan Solana, the local representative of the Vatican,"Being a part of this very special procession," says Father Juan, "is a unique experience for any Christian."

2. Participate in a Passover Seder

Over the last several years more Christians are seeking to understand the roots of Christianity and one of the best ways to delve deeper is to study the Torah and celebrate a Passover seder. Unlike Easter which is celebrated by attending mass, the Passover Seder is a true family celebration. If you have an opportunity to attend a seder  its can be a wonderfully meaningful experience. 

3. Visit the Holy Sepulcher on Good Friday or on Easter Sunday

Visit the Holy Sepulcher on Good Friday. This shrine is where the last five Stations of the Cross are located. No Easter in the Holy Land is complete without exploring this historic shrine. The Good Friday services: 8.00 a.m. - Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, Calvary. The doors will remain opened.4.00 p.m. - The Liturgy of the Hours. 8.10 p.m. - "Funeral" Procession.

On Easter Sunday the services are as follows
7:30 a.m. - Entry into the Basilica by the Latin Patriarch
8:00 a.m. - Solemn Mass of Resurrection and Procession around the Rotunda
5:00 p.m. - Daily Procession

4. Tour Mt. Zion

To have a truly authentic experience, visit the Upper Room located at Mount Zion and while you are there make sure you read about the resurrection in the Gospels. Jesus's appearance to the Apostles occurred in the Upper Room. The Upper Room is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 pm. On Holy Thursday, April 2 - at 3:30 p.m. there is a Pilgrimage to the Cenacle and to the Church of St. James

5. Attend “Resurrection Sunday” at the Garden Tomb

Easter Sunday also  referred to as “Resurrection Sunday”,  is a special day at the Garden Tomb and services are held at April 5 at 6:30 am and 9:30  in English, Scandanavian at 11 and Korean at 12. Moreover the  Garden Tomb also holds its annual Arabic Easter event which coincides with Orthodox Easter and which brings together 500 to 600 Arab and Israeli believers. Seeing both Israelis and Palestinians together in prayer makes this an even more spiritually significant event.  This event is scheduled for April 11 in the afternoon. Call 02-539-8100 for details.

6. Wake up early and attend Holy Fire Ceremony

The Holy Fire Ceremony is part of the Orthodox tradition and is a special festivity that only happens in Jerusalem, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. On April 11 Orthodox Christians gather very early in the morning at the Church of the Sepulchre for the annual Holy Fire Ceremony.

7. Attend the Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall

On the third day of Passover, April 6, 2015 a special priestly blessing, known as the Bircat Cohanim is recited twice at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, first at 9 am during the morning service and again at 10 am during the Musaf service. You will hear the leader of the service reciting the blessing over the loudspeaker in order that everyone can follow and recite the blessing in unison. Our Travelujah tip: bring water!

8. Enjoy the Israel Museum for FREE on April 10, 2015

Celebrate Passover by enjoying free entrance to the Israel Museum on Friday April 10 only, from 10 am to 2 pm. The Israel Museum is kicking off its 50th anniversary celebration with a new exhibit that just opened, “6 Artists / 6 Projects.”  As an FYI, Bank Hapoalim often sponsors free entrances to a number of museums all over the country during the intermediate days of Passover, April 5 – 9, 2015. Its worth checking Bank Hapoalim’s website as you get closer to the holiday to see if they will be offering something this year.

9. Dead Sea Music Festival – April 5 – 9, 2015
For the 19th year, Israelis and tourists from abroad will descend to the Dead Sea for this highly anticipated rock music festival where they will enjoy performances by top Israeli artists.

10. 8th Experience the Samaritan Passover – May 2, 2015 

Jews celebrate Passover beginning on April 3 however the Samaritans will not begin their Passover celebration until a month later, May 1. The reason in the calendar discrepancy is due to the fact that Jews begin calculating from the first year of creation while the Samaritans use the year that Joshua Bin-Nun entered Israel as their first year. Consequently, leap years are not parallel resulting in a Samaritan celebration occurring one month later.

Approximately 760 Samaritans who live in Holon and Mt. Gerazim will begin celebrating Passover on the eve of May 1 and the actual sacrifice will occur after Shabbat ends, on the eve of May 2, 2015. The venue is the community of Kiryat Luza on top of Mt. Gerazim, which overlooks biblical Shechem or modern day Nablus.

For further information on Passover and Easter in the Holy Land email

Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah-Holy Land Tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land as well as the Co-Founder of Breaking Bread Journeys, a joint Israeli-Palestinian tourism project.

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