One of the leaders of Israel's Christian community has said that fewer Christian pilgrims are expected in the Old City for Easter as a result of the rising number of terrorist incidents in the country.
"Few pilgrims are expected [in Israel], also for reasons of safety," Sobhy Makhoul, a member of the Maronite Church of Jerusalem and CEO of the Christian Media Center, said in an interview with the Asia News website.
Makhoul said that the recent state of attacks is "worrisome.”
On Thursday night, a Palestinian terrorist opened fire in the heart of Tel Aviv, killing three people and injuring multiple others. He was eventually killed by security forces.
The event came only days and weeks after several other deadly incidents, including in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Bnei Brak, the southern city of Beersheba and the northern city of Hadera.
Makhoul told Asia News that the Islamic holy month of Ramadan often leads to “episodes of violence” by “individuals who want to become martyrs … inciting and forementing [further] violence.”
He said “what is worrisome are the attacks by Israeli Arabs and the inspiration from jihadi groups, like the Islamic State, who want to strike at the heart of Israel. So far, they [the attackers] seem to be lone wolves, single individuals; it is not clear whether there is an organized leadership or a wider movement behind them.”
Police have stepped up security in Jerusalem and particularly around the Temple Mount to help keep the peace and guarantee freedom of worship for Jews and Christians who also come to the Old City to pray on their holidays of Passover and Easter.
Passover begins April 15 at sundown and Easter on April 17.
Hopefully, Easter will “bring some peace of mind,” Makhoul said. “Holidays are piling up, but few pilgrims are expected, also for reasons of safety.
“On the positive side, services will be open to the public because COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. Despite tensions, people want to join in.”