Around 10,000 Christian pilgrims attended the Holy Fire ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on Saturday, during the Easter celebrations in the Old City.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is believed to house the sites of Christ’s crucifixion, entombment, and resurrection. It is believed that every year on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter, a flame miraculously appears inside the chamber of Christ’s tomb.
During the annual ritual that dates back to the 4th century, the Greek patriarch and an Armenian Orthodox priest entered the chamber of the site of the Christ’s tomb, and emerged with candles lit by the Holy Fire.
With their candles lit, clerics and pilgrims quickly rushed outside to pass the flames onto other congregants holding candles in the church who then also pass it on from one person to another.
The church and its surrounding areas were heavily guarded by the IDF and Israeli border police, who tried to organize the crowds spilling into the narrow alleyways of the Old City. Each officer was equipped with a fire extinguisher and paramedics were on site, occasionally helping a dehydrated person out of the crowds.
The thousands of faintly but determined believers made it through nearly three hours of pushing and being pushed down the alleyways of the Old City. This was followed by at least two more hours of waiting inside the church in tight crowded spaces enclosed by Israeli officers; all in order to reach the fire which they cherished to the last spark, touching the holy flames as if it were holy water.