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PHOTOS: Palestinian Christians protest Israeli permit regime during Palm Sunday procession

During the annual Palm Sunday procession, Palestinian Christians protest permits delayed and denied during the Easter season.

Photos by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

In the annual Palm Sunday procession, Palestinian Christians carry signs naming their West Bank communities, all of which are cut off from Jerusalem by the Israeli separation barrier, requiring their residents to obtain special permits to enter, March 24, 2013. Such restrictions have dramatically reduced the number of Palestinians able to participate in religious traditions of any faith in Jerusalem.

Whether during Ramadan or Easter, every year, Palestinians with West Bank IDs face challenges entering Jerusalem for religious worship. Despite claims by Israeli authorities of granting more permits and relaxing restrictions, each year thousands of worshipers are denied entry.

This Easter season, early reports indicate that Palestinian Christian communities from the northern West Bank had to cancel their Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem due to a lack of permits. Parishes from the Bethlehem and Ramallah areas received between 30% and 40% of the permits they requested.

One individual from the Bethlehem area lamented that while he was granted entry, the rest of his family was turned away at the checkpoint. Such arbitrary policies are typical with Israel’s permitting system, which rarely provides a coherent rationale for who is granted and who is denied, other the than the catch-all excuse of “security reasons”.

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi was quoted as saying:

There should not even be a question of needing permits to visit one’s own city…. East Jerusalem is the occupied capital of the Palestinian people and freedom of worship is a basic human right for all of our Christian and Muslim citizens; a right which is being systematically and increasingly denied by a foreign occupying force. The fact that so many Palestinian Christian communities are denied their simple human right to worship freely in their own capital city is unacceptable.

Palestinian Christians and Muslims rightly ask why if they are granted special permission to visit Jerusalem for religious holiday seasons–and are at that time not considered a security threat–why they are not allowed to freely visit throughout the year.

The heavy Israeli military presence along the procession route contrasts with the original meaning of the holiday. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem, marking the beginning of the Christian Holy Week. According to the Christian scriptures, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there lay down their cloaks in front of him and waved palm branches as a symbol of victory. Additional symbolism included his choice to ride on a donkey, perhaps referring to Eastern traditions that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. A king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out he was coming in peace. Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem would thus symbolize his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king.

The Gospel of Luke also contains this prescient passage of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: “As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.'”


The procession begins at the Church of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, also known as the “Palm Sunday Church”, which is located directly next to a Palestinian home that was demolished by Israeli authorities several years ago.



Palestinian Christians carry a mock Israeli permit for entering Jerusalem. All Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are cut off from Jerusalem by the Israeli separation barrier, requiring their residents to obtain special permits to enter.


Israeli soldiers watch as Palestinian Christians in the annual Palm Sunday procession. Palm Sunday is the Christian celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the “Prince of Peace” the week before his crucifixion.


Palestinian and international Christian pilgrims march past an Israeli settlement on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. All Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law.


Palestinian Christians carry a banner for the West Bank town of Birzeit with a sign attached reading “Entry Denied”. This year, residents of Birzeit and several other West Bank communities did not receive the additional permits typically issued for religious seasons in time to participate in the Palm Sunday celebration.


A Palestinian flag waves among palm branches entering the Old City of Jerusalem at the end of the Palm Sunday procession.

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    1. There are entry quotas. The logic is that probabilistic entry makes it harder for the violent to get through. Since most applying want to be religious, not violent, the unexplained quotas become a badge of humiliation and discrimination. And this fosters anger, hatred. Who is right? Depends on where you sit.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Leen

      It’s almost ironic that Palm Sunday, a day which represents Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, thousands of Christian pilgrams are denied entry to the very same Jerusalem.

      Reply to Comment
    3. rsgengland

      A member of the IRA once said, “for the police to be successful in stopping us, they need to be succesful 100% of the time; for us to be successful, we need to succeed only once”.
      The smaller the crowd, the easier it is to maintain security.
      Jews were restricted or prevented from attending the “KOTEL” and East Jerusalem during the Jordanian occupation.
      Virtually all traces of Judaism were eradicated during the Jordanian occupation as well.
      Short memories seem to be the order of the day.
      The Christian population in Judea and Samaria [called the West Bank during the Jordanian occupation] under Palestinian control,is decreasing rapidly, while the Christian population in Israel is increasing.
      The way it is going in Judea and Samaria, soon there may be as many Christians living under Palestinian control as there were Jews living there under the Jordanian occupation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Mukmak

        So you’re repeating the fallacy of blaming the PA for the decreasing Christian population in the West Bank? I suggest watching this: http://youtu.be/ZdaWyFVKy4A

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Your response is to provide a link to a Palestinian propaganda site?

          Fact is the Christian population in the PA is dropping and started dropping rapidly when the PA took over Bethlehem and Ramallah while the Christian population in Israel is constant.

          Reply to Comment
          • Blake

            Blood is thicker than water. I find it amazing the occupiers and oppressors who are denying the Christians their right to pray and turning this into an anti Muslim rant. They are united against their oppressor. Muslims are not denying them anything.

            Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Obviously, Arab Christians who reside in WB, Gaza or elsewhere would put their lives in immediate danger by merely admitting being persecuted.


          Reply to Comment
        • Leen

          Funny you should say that because a lot of people in the PA and the PLO are Christian. I was sort of amazed when my friend who works at a PLO department told me 90% of his office is Christian. I didn’t think Christians on a good day can be 90% of a big department given they are a minority. But hey ho.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Yeah, yeah. Sounds too similar. You see, minorities tend to stick together. In every state there are some departments/business niches which are occupied by a certain minority.

            Obviously, the minority would try to get the best deal they could, and would succeed to some extent, however it is does not mean that there is no ongoing anti-whatever.

            Armenians in Turkey did fairly well, like Jews in Germany or Tutsi in Burundi…

            Know this guy – Khaled Abu Toameh?

            “Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they could no longer afford to pay “protection” money to local Muslim gangs.

            While it is true that the Palestinian Authority does not have an official policy of persecution against Christians, it is also true that this authority has not done enough to provide the Christian population with a sense of security and stability.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            My point wasn’t ‘minorities stick together’. My point was you implied that it is because of the PA/PLO Christians are leaving while I pointed out the PA/PLO is dominated by Christians, thefore it doesn’t make sense, unless you are implying Christians are suppressing eachother.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            BY the way, the link you posted isn’t very credible because a) there are no sources (think tanks are suppose to list supporting documents about particular events that have taken place otherwise it is not credible) b) it sounds like an op-ed.

            ‘The Bethlehem poll, which was carried out by the Palestinian Centre for research and Cultural Dialogue, shows on the other hand that more than two-thirds (73.3%) of Bethlehem’s Christians believe that the Palestinian Authority treats Christian heritage with respect.
            Christians of Bethlehem overwhelmingly (78%) blame the exodus of Christians from the town on Israel’s blockade’

            And I would say that as fairly accurate as the grievances from my Christian family and friends are precisely the same, the occupation.

            Let’s not forget the more radical Palestinian groups such as the DLFP and PLFP were founded by Christians and the leadership was overwhelmingly Christian.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            I would also say, you clearly know nothing about the Christians of Palestine. Well I do (half of my family is Christian anyway and I was in a Catholic Arab school for over 10 years). Their desire for a liberated Palestine is strong, the catholic nuns in my school used to conduct a religious sermon every day and at the end it was always a prayer for a free Palestine and Jerusalem and how we need to be ‘steadfast’ in the eyes of the occupation. All my Christian friends are the ones who are regularly out there protesting whether it is in Bilin or at the Hebrew University. Oh and the Christian palestinians who study or travel outside? They seem to be the presidents of palestinian solidarity groups and lead protests all the time. So in short what I’m saying, you clearly know nothing about Christian Palestinians, hell I’m not sure if you even ever met one.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      Could someone explain to me what makes Beit Hoshen a settlement and not just a couple of houses that Jews live in?

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        “Could someone explain to me what makes Beit Hoshen a settlement and not just a couple of houses that Jews live in?”

        The fact that these colonial Jews are not citizens of Palestine and so their presence is illegal.

        Reply to Comment

      palestina libera dai terroristi israeliani.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Joel

      MB tortures Egyptian Christians in mosques.

      Who cares?

      Reply to Comment

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