Easter in Jerusalem's Old City draws international, tech-savvy crowd

Selfie sticks and go-pros filled the Church of the Holy Sephulchre this morning as pilgrims attempted to catch Easter celebrations on film.

April 5, 2015 15:06
4 minute read.

Easter Sunday in Jerusalem‏. (photo credit: ARIEL COHEN)


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Hundreds of pilgrims clamored to catch a glimpse of Jesus’s tomb in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre this morning, as a part of Easter and Palm Sunday celebrations in the Old City.

While some worshippers took celebrations very seriously, others rushed to take selfies with Jesus's tomb, treating the event more like a tourist spectacle than a somber religious event. Many members of the crowd outside the church stood atop the steps of Golgatha in order to catch a better snapshot of the religious festivities below. The most savvy  pilgrims had their cameras and iPhones attached to sticks in order to make sure they could get a clear shot of the religious  processions. 

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death. Most Christians believe that this event occurred in the Old City of Jerusalem, namely, atop Golgotha at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

According to the Western calendar, Easter is celebrated this Sunday (April 5). However, in the Eastern Orthodox Christian calendar, today is Palm Sunday and Easter will be celebrated on April 12. Since Jerusalem is a place where Christians of all denominations flock, both Easter and Palm Sunday were celebrated in the day's events.

One man in the crowd said that because of the various calendar changes, April is like a “month of Easter Sundays in Jerusalem.”
Easter in Jerusalem's Old City draws international, tech-savvy crowd

Easter is the most holy day in the Christian calendar, and pilgrims came from as far as Russia and as close as Nazareth to celebrate. Masses were held in Spanish, French, Russian, English, Arabic and Hebrew, among others, to accommodate the diverse international crowd.

The full ranks of the Old City police were out in force to manage the crowds as clergy proceeded down the Stations of the Cross. Inside they Church of the Holy Sepulchre, they managed through the shoving and pushing crowds.

Earlier in the day, around 1,500 worshippers gathered at the Garden Tomb, just outside of the Old City, for a sunrise mass to commemorate Jesus’s ascension to the heavens.

Simon Muki, a Christian from Nazareth, brought his wife and two young daughters to Jerusalem to celebrate the holy day at the site of Jesus’s crucifixion.

“Its very important for me to come here every year because Jesus was here,” Muki said. “I bring my girls too. It’s not just tradition, it's also for prayer. We're here for Palm Sunday now, but we will come back for Easter, of course.”

Jonny Musharbash owns and runs a pop-up an Easter shop near the New Gate in the Christian Quarter. He opened the store only two weeks ago and only sells classic Easter paraphernalia. The shop looks as though it could belong in an American suburban strip mall rather than the Old City of Jerusalem, as it is filled with nothing but chocolate bunnies, colorful Easter eggs and other festive decor.

“Business has been so bad so far,” Musharbash said. “People have no money to buy things for Easter. The tourists don't buy anything from here, only the locals.”

He says that while many locals decorate with the Easter bunny, decorations aren't as popular during Easter time as they are during Christmas. His two-week pop-up shop hasn't sold too many candy bunnies, but he is not discouraged.

“After this, my family will go to Nazareth to celebrate the holiday. We are Christian, this holiday is very important.” he said.

While peeps and plastic bunnies may not be very popular in Jerusalem this year, selfie sticks and go-pros certainly were, as worshippers made an effort to catch this year’s Easter Sunday on film. Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during Easter mass, it seemed as though every other person was more focused on getting a snapshot of a patriarch exiting Jesus’s tomb than on reciting the prayer at hand.

Jennifer Ristine, a Consecrated woman who came to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, said that Jerusalem holds the most essential mysteries of the Christian faith and that she finds a deeper meaning by walking on the grounds and worshipping on the path of Jesus.

“The most essential part of whether you walk through the stations where Jesus fell or where Simon helped him carry the cross is that you're doing an interior act of faith and something that happened to Jesus two thousand years ago,” Ristine said.

“So it is a spiritual walk that you take with him. You can do it in your house, you can do it in a church, but it is very special to do it near and around the place it actually happened to Jesus.”

Other holiday celebrations for Christians of different denominations will occur next Sunday, and on following Sundays throughout the month of April.

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