- (Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
Christians in Israel have marked Good Friday, the day Christ was crucified, with annual ceremonies re-enacting Jesus' Stations of the Cross.
Believers commemorated the holy day through prayers and processions in Jerusalem, as did Palestinian Christians in the town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, Christ's birthplace. They carried olivewood crosses and re-enacted Jesus' Stations of the Cross, or the final hours where Jesus carried the cross on His way to be crucified, the Associated Press reported.
Many of the Palestinians, bearing their nation's flag, offered prayers in their olive groves and farmlands, which are located between Israeli settlements on the way to the planned separation barrier. The prayers were also meant to highlight the ongoing conflict in the country, where Palestinians are protesting what they see as Israel's increasing restrictions on accessing their lands. According to Israeli authorities, however, these restrictions are necessary in order to prevent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
In the holy city of Jerusalem, on the other hand, pilgrims sang "Way of Suffering" as they followed 14 Stations of the Cross and walked through the cobblestone alleyways toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the ancient spot where some believe Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.
According to statistics, there are 110,000 Arab Christians in Jerusalem, as well as thousands of Christian immigrants and foreign workers.
The Jewish holiday of Passover also falls on this year's Good Friday, and marks the Israelite's exodus from slavery in Egypt. Israel's army have prohibited Palestinians from entering Israel on Passover eve, except those seeking medical attention, and the ban will last until Saturday midnight.
According to a recent "Christ at the Checkpoint" conference in Bethlehem, the number of Palestinian Christians is dwindling, and they face an uncertain future going forward.
Orthodox Christians follow a different calendar and celebrate Easter one week after Catholics and Protestants.