This week is Holy Week, not just for the Christians but also for the Jews. This week is not only the Christian observance of Palm Sunday, Passover, Good Friday and Easter. This is one of those years where the Jewish observation of Passover (in Hebrew it is Pesach) falls in the same week. You can imagine that leads to a busy week here in Jerusalem.
You may not know this, but the Eastern Orthodox Church runs on its own calendar, so the Orthodox Holy Week does not always line up with that observed by Western Christians. This is one of those years when it does line up. Thus, the city is packed with Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians as well as Jews. All of them have made pilgrimage from somewhere far away and there are thousands and thousands of them.
It is the most interesting week of the entire year to go people-watching around the Old City. It’s also a great opportunity to see how many languages you can identify.
As you probably know, this last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the day that remembers Jesus’ final entrance into Jerusalem prior to his death. The Bible tells us that Jesus came up the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, stopped at Bethphage on the back of the Mt. of Olives and then came over it and into the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19).
Today this event is remembered with a giant Palm Sunday processional, involving between 7,000 and 10,000 people ever year. I’m not sure how accurate those numbers are. I was given those numbers by a local and they could be accurate. I’ve never seen 7-10,000 people in a group before though so I don’t know what that many people would look like.
These people line up starting at Bethphage and march up and over the Mt. of Olives. Once they reach the bottom they climb to the Lion’s Gate (also called Stephen’s Gate) and enter through it into the Old City of Jerusalem. Once inside they make their way into the courtyard of St. Anne’s Church and have a party. Few among them know it, but they are actually having their party on top of the unexcavated lower Pool of Bethesda. In John 5 Jesus heals a man who had been crippled for 38 years at this spot.
If you have any questions about Holy Week in Jerusalem, please comment on this post.
Grace and peace!