Hag Pesach Sameach and Happy Easter.

DAN-CHYI CHUA
Apr 20, 2011
*Special to asia!

It is the holy week once again in Jerusalem. And it is not all about God.

One of the most spiritually-moving experiences for a Christian is to arrive in Jerusalem on Holy Week and with the faithful from all over the world, commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of their saviour Jesus Christ, around whom their faith is built.

On Good Friday, they will retrace the steps of Jesus as he carried his cross through the ancient cobbled stones of Jerusalem's Old City, remembering the account of his death in the bible. Then on Easter Sunday, the bells from the churches of the holy city will toll, and thousands upon thousands of Christians will gather at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Each denomination, the Catholics, the Greeks, the Orthodox and so on, will take turns to hold Easter services. Through its cavernous halls, erected over the site where Christ is believed to have been crucified, incense and prayers will rise heavenward. At the entrance of the church, pilgrims will kneel, kiss and let their tears fall onto the marble slab where Christ was lain when he was taken down from the cross.

This is the Christian Holy Week in Jerusalem.

... nothing is more sacred to Israel at this time

In order to spend Christianity's most significant occasion in Jerusalem, they would have had to make travel arrangements beforehand. And this includes those who live just ten kilometers away in the West Bank.

About 51,000 Palestinian Christians live across the Green Line from Israel in the West Bank. During the Christian Holy Week, Palestinians – even those holding work permits for Israel – are not allowed to enter the country. Access to Jerusalem is given only to around 3,000 Palestinian Christians who have managed to secure a special permit.

The young and unmarried are automatically disqualified from obtaining one.

The reason for the restricted access to Jerusalem is that the Christian Holy Week coincides with the ten-day Jewish Passover holidays. Security in Israel is tightened during religious festivals. In Jerusalem, the city regarded as holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims, nothing is more sacred to Israel at this time than the country's security.

Rightly or wrongly, it doesn't matter. Pointless as it is to debate on that, because it is what it is. It is a fact on the ground here in Israel, just another way how the conflict takes grip on those fortunate or unfortunate enough – depending on your point of view – to inhabit the Holy Land.

The Holy Land.

To the Jews, here's Hag Pesach Sameach.

And to the Christians, a Happy Easter.

To the God whom they worship, Shalom.

Salaam.

Peace, in other words.

That those barred may worship in their holy city one day soon, perhaps next year in Jerusalem?

That would be nice.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi