Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Here in Jerusalem thousands of Christians celebrate by marching in procession over the Mt. of Olives and into the Old City of Jerusalem. I went to the top of the mountain with a group of JUC students to join the procession.
It was led by some guys with flags with writing in Arabic. They were followed by groups of Arab children and teens who were dressed like American boy and girl scouts. I don’t know what they were from. Following them came a small marching band. After they passed the crowd fell in behind. It was a sea of yellow tourist hats, matching t-shirts, priests in long robes, and palm branches. We fell into line pretty close to the front, in the midst of a French group being led in singing Shine Jesus Shine, in French, over a loudspeaker. We soon dropped out of their group and joined a Latino group from Venezuela. These guys had brought drums and guitars and were a bit more lively than the French group. So we danced and sang as we climbed up the back of the Mt. of Olives, reached the summit and began to descend the east side, facing Jerusalem. No one knows exactly where Jesus came down the Mt. of Olives. Today, there is only one road down Jerusalem side. Along it are churches memorializing the place where “Jesus wept” in John 11, and possible locations of the Garden of Gethsemane. Thousands of people from all over the world were marching/dancing down this street with me. Once we reached the bottom of the mountain we turned right and zig-zagged up to the Lion’s Gate/Stephen’s Gate, just north of the Temple Mount. We went in the gate and to St. Anne’s church.
Here, there was music playing really loudly. We hung around for around an hour and a half in the courtyard waiting for something to happen. There was an area marked off with an altar in it and it looked as though there would be a service of some sort. After about 1.5 hours the rest of the procession had all arrived. Nothing was happening and we were getting really thirsty and tired so we left. Some hung behind and told me that there was eventually a service, but it was in some other language that they didn’t know, and it only lasted about 5 minutes. So, it seems I didn’t miss much. Walking back through the Old City to JUC was interesting as always. Up in the Muslim Quarter where St. Anne’s church is, the streets were packed with Christians. It felt a bit weird since it usually seems like we’re the vast minority around here.