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Easter celebration in Israel - Walking in Jesus’ final footsteps

Jesus on cross painting Jerusalem Israel

This year (2020), the Christian Holy Week celebrations started on the 5th April with Palm Sunday. Spending Easter in Israel, the Holy Land, is for Christian pilgrims one of the most exciting and special times to experience.

Photo. Jesus on the cross painting in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. © Travel Explorations.

Traditionally ten thousands are coming from around the world to explore the country and take part in the many special events, especially for joining the large procession along the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem. But due to the Covid-19 - Corona threat the celebrations will be different this year. 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is usually packed with people bearing candles, lit with a light which they believe appears miraculously from Jesus' tomb. This church is believed to be the site of Jesus's crucifixion and burial, was closed more than two weeks ago.

Marking an "extraordinary" Easter as worshippers are kept away because of the coronavirus pandemic. Traditionally on Good Friday there is a "funeral Procession" in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. For Protestant Christians, the highlight of Easter Sunday is the Sunrise Service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. 

Online worship. The big question now a days is how to ensure safety and continued worship during the most important festival in the Christian calendar regarding COVID-19 - Corona. Limited Easter Ceremonies in Jerusalem are likely to be broadcast live across the world. Church leaders in Jerusalem complain that holy sites were not exempt from emergency restrictions in the same way as the Western Wall, and they push for final approval. Holy Land custodian urges Israel to let Christian clerics celebrate Easter at Jesus' tomb. Easter celebrations should be permitted inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, even if only by a small number of clerics abiding by anti-coronavirus guidelines, a senior clergyman said. This will be an "extraordinary" Easter this year in Jerusalem amid coronavirus closures. Religious leaders are encouraging Christians to tune in to Easter services streamed live on Facebook or websites.

The Holy City of Jerusalem, a truly inspiring and spiritual city, a city that leaves a lasting impression on many of us, especially in the Easter. Whether you are a believer or not, you can feel the presence of history in old town in Jerusalem. Time has almost stood still there since Jesus`lived. One of the most iconic elements of Easter in Israel is the famous Good Friday procession in which thousands of Christian pilgrims march along the Via Dolorosa in the Christian Quarter of the Old City.

It happens almost every year, that moment when the two great monotheistic faiths of Judaism and Christianity meet. For Jews, Holy Week means Passover (or Pessach), for Christians, Easter. Celebrating the Holy Week of Easter in Israel is a dream come true for many Christian pilgrims, and many thousands visit every year in order to trace the footsteps of Jesus and his last moments. 

The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century.

Easter Day, which falls on Sunday for most Christians, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After being executed on a cross on Good Friday, Jesus was buried in a tomb. That first Easter, some 2,000 years ago, God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

The Easter is Biblican, also called Pascha (Greek, Latin) or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD.


Places to visit in the Easter: as the sun rises you can retrace the last steps of Jesus on Good Friday, walk along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow), through the Old City, pray along the Stations of the Cross as you can walk the same path Jesus took. Visit St. Anne's Church, the home of the Virgin Mary and her parents Saints Joachim and Anne. Ecce Homo where Pilate proclaimed "Behold the man…” the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Mass. Take a walk to the Western Wall (the most holy place for Jews), exit at Mt. Zion gate to visit the Upper Room (John 13:1-30), the location of the Last Supper and the Dormition Abbey where many believe the blessed Mary died. So you can walk further to St. Peter in Gallicantu (John 18:12) where Peter denied Christ three times. 

Stein Morten Lund, April 2020

Additional information

Read more about the Easter celebration in Israel

An 'extraordinary' Easter in Jerusalem amid coronavirus closures (Aljazeera, 10th April 2020).

Overview of annual religious events in the Old City of Jerusalem. 
Easter in Jerusalem features an entire week of services, ceremonies and other events.

Movies about the life and death of Jesus: .
5 films about Jesus you should watch this easter (source: Religion Unplugged).

Another movie is Ben-Hur, which is a 1959 American epic historical drama film directed by William Wyler. Here Jesus perform miracles and show his effects on others. In the 1959 movie version of Ben Hur the character of Jesus Christ was played by the American actor Claude Heater. He was not included in the credits for the movie. All the shots of Heater in the film showed him facing away from the camera as it was decided not to show his face in the film.

The site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is identified as the place both of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Protestant tradition allow the tomb of Jesus to be the Garden Tomb – further north, just outside the walls of the Old City and the Damascus Gate. Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem’s walls and buried (albeit temporarily), according to Jewish tradition outside the city on a hill called Golgotha. Golgotha or Calvary means the place of the skull and was a place of public executions and perhaps near a cemetery. Tradition places this as the burial place of the skull of Adam.

"One thing we’ve never gone into before is the true spiritual power of the city of Jerusalem. A power that invokes in numerous people every year the Jerusalem Syndrome.": 
What is the Jerusalem Syndrome?

On Palm Sunday thousands of Christian pilgrims climb Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, to re-enact Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Typically, the procession heads down to the Church of All Nations, continues to Saint Anne Church, St. Steven’s Gate (the Lions Gate), the Old City and down the Via Dolorosa.

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