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
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.