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PHOTOS: Christians face barriers to Easter worship in Jerusalem

Year after year, Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims face checkpoints and harsh treatment by Israeli police officers as they attempt to celebrate the Easter season in Jerusalem.

Text and photos by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

An Israeli police checkpoint blocks access to the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. The day before Easter, thousands of Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims attempt to enter Jerusalem's Old CIty to participate in the "Saturday of Light" or "Holy Fire" celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli police checkpoint blocks access to the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. The day before Easter, thousands of Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims attempt to enter Jerusalem’s Old CIty to participate in the “Saturday of Light” or “Holy Fire” celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims faced Israeli barriers and harsh treatment by officers as they attempted to celebrate the Easter season in Jerusalem this year. In scenes similar to previous years, thousands of worshipers were denied entry to the Old City of Jerusalem by police barricades as a heavy presence of security forces controlled access to the city.

Despite VIP status, even Robert H. Serry, the United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, faced similar treatment. The Washington Post reports:

But despite earlier assurances of unhindered access to the church, Serry said in a statement, the Israeli police refused to allow his group entry, saying they had orders to that effect…. The special coordinator expressed dismay at the incident and called on “all parties to respect the right of religious freedom, granting access to holy sites for worshipers of all faiths and refraining from provocations not least during religious holidays.” …

This month, the Israeli High Court of Justice agreed that Palestinians’ rights were being violated by police checkpoints and other restrictions that annually create obstacles to worship.

While Palestinian Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and Gaza have to apply for permits to enter Jerusalem for their religious celebrations, Israeli Jews (and effectively, any Jew regardless of their nationality) participate in their religious celebrations in occupied East Jerusalem without any restriction. Even Jerusalem ID holders and Palestinian citizens of Israel needed special police-issued wristbands to pass checkpoints into the Old City on Saturday, while in at least some cases Jewish worshipers were allowed to pass freely by police while crowds of other pilgrims were forced to wait.

Palestinians and others who face these checkpoints and barricades often report harsh treatment by police. Last year, a Coptic priest was choked and beaten by police in an incident caught on video. While authorities claimed the case was a rare exception, and that the massive police presence is needed to maintain order, Palestinian Christians maintain that such abuses are commonplace.

Israeli police block the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, April 19, 2014. The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled this month that Palestinians’ rights are being violated by checkpoints and other restrictions that annually create obstacles to worship. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli police block the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, April 19, 2014. The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled this month that Palestinians’ rights are being violated by checkpoints and other restrictions that annually create obstacles to worship. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

Israeli police restrict the movement of Christians in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem while letting a Jewish man pass through, April 19, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli police restrict the movement of Christians in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem while letting a Jewish man pass through, April 19, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

Orthodox Christian nuns stand trapped behind an Israeli police barrier in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Orthodox Christian nuns stand trapped behind an Israeli police barrier in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

Israeli police push worshipers in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. Many Palestinians report harsh treatment by Israeli police while attempting to access holy sites in Jerusalem.

Israeli police push worshipers in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. Many Palestinians report harsh treatment by Israeli police while attempting to access holy sites in Jerusalem. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

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    COMMENTS

    1. Danny

      So much for the lie that Israel has freedom of worship. More like freedom of worship for Jews and non-Arab Christian pilgrims. Israel doesn’t insist on referring to itself as a “Jewish state” for nothing.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Deavman

      Biased as usual. The old city is a special place where large crowds become a logistical problem, whether they be Muslims, Christians or Jewish. As for the religious Jew that was allowed to pass, he is a resident and one single person does not constitute a risk as a large crowd might be

      Reply to Comment
      • Peter

        And more importantly, a JEWISH resident, rather than one of those nasty multigenerational Palestinian residents we’re trying to do the ‘slow cleans’ on to “Judaize” our occupation.
        Jerusalem/Al Quds should be under international control as was agreed to when the UN agreed to Partition.

        Reply to Comment
      • Rauna

        “As for the religious Jew that was allowed to pass”. He is a chosen people.

        Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        What was the risk of a large crowd rather than an individual? What harm was the large crowd going to do? Perhaps next year Israel could make a moving line, you pray while you’re moving, and everyone gets to go through? Then the “logistics of a large crowd” risk would be gone and we could see more clearly if there is any discrimination against religions.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Rehmat

      In 2012, Bob Simon reported the plight of Christians under Jewish Israeli rule at CBS News 60 MINUTES. Israeli ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, bullied CBS to kill the 12-minutes segment related to religious bigotry and social discrimination of native Palestinian Christian forcing them to leave Israel.

      “The very name Jesus was for Jews a symbol of all that is abominable, and this popular tradition still persists. The Gospels are equally detested, and they are not allowed to be quoted, let alone taught, even in modern Israeli Jewish schools,” wrote late professor Israel Shahak.

      http://rehmat1.com/2012/05/07/plight-of-christians-in-jewish-occupied-palestine/

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rab

      Shameless lies.

      They are and were keeping order. And the Foreign Ministry’s response was perfectly accurate. They said that the Israeli police is doing its best to contend with the huge numbers of pilgrims and worshippers and pointed out that the same Serry would be critical of Israel if anybody actually got hurt on these days of worship.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard

        ….. as opposed to Yom Yerushalayim where the Palestinian inhabitants are prevented from going about their daily business while the occupation forces allow for thousands of Jews from all over Israel free rein to parade all over the city.
        Double standards = Apartheid.
        BDS.

        Reply to Comment
        • Rab

          It’s not just that you’re wrong, it’s that your use of language is a joke. “Occupation forces.” “Double standards = apartheid.”

          Dude, you really need to get an education.

          Reply to Comment
    5. shachalnur

      Dutchman Robert H. Serry is a profesional provocateur,always willing to create conflict for his handlers in London.

      Only in March 2014 he was sent as the UN envoy for Crimea,and got locked up in his office by armed pro Russian Crimeans,as soon as he tried to get involved.

      He was released and ran away the next day.

      Russians know exactly who they are dealing with and act accordingly.

      Israel would be advised to do the same with these provocateurs,and +972 should be carefull to believe anything this man is doing or saying.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Vadim

      Where they held for some time or turned back? The former called crowd control. The later is wrong. The article makes no distinction and it’s not clear what happened.

      Not that it bothers some of the commentators here.

      By the way, how well are the rights of Jews to pray in their holiest place upheld? When is the piece about that?

      Reply to Comment
    7. William Gepford

      Not to allow Palestinians to pass is a criminal act

      Reply to Comment