(Jerusalem) In one of the pillars of the Resurrection, Angela Bernita’s tears reveal an emotion this Christian finds difficult to translate into words. This Filipino, fortified last year by the Coronavirus, recaptured the fervor that had seized Jerusalem for Easter.
Like her, hundreds of believers stepped on the stones of the Old City to mark Good Friday to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ.
From the plaza of the Holy Sepulcher, a church considered the holiest of Christianity, a crowd’s prayers echoed like any prayer for months.
Inside, some did not hesitate to touch or even kiss, with or without a sanitary mask, a backing stone, a reddish limestone slab on which the body of Christ was embalmed before his burial, according to tradition.
“It’s much better than last year,” M. strikesI Berensita, her face was sparkling with tears.
The 46-year-old domestic helper, who has lived in Israel for more than 10 years, has followed Easter Mass 2020 online.
The Israeli authorities had just ordered the closure of holy sites, as well as schools and businesses, to curb the spread of the virus. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher has been closed for Easter for the first time in at least a century.
“Today, we feel as if we are coming back to life,” said Lina Salibi, a Palestinian from Jerusalem, who also celebrated Easter without a church and without a large family gathering last year.
“It was difficult, as if the city was dead,” says this tall, 28-year-old brunette who happened to sing during mass in Bethlehem, another holy city a few kilometers from Jerusalem.
“Get out of the grave.”
In 2020, only four religious people had climbed the Path of Passion, a path of suffering where, according to the Gospels, Jesus met his mother, fell and received help to carry the cross and met weeping women.
This year, a procession of a few hundred believers, led by dozens of religious singing and chanting in several languages, gave some semblance of life to this long artery that crosses the Old City and its alleys dating back thousands of years.
“It was as if we were ourselves in a grave last year, and coming out of it,” said Angelina Kaiser, a British shepherd, who was allowed by the Israeli-led vaccination campaign, the fastest in the world. Easter celebrations.
Or almost. Usually, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world wander the ancient city. While restrictions imposed on the Coronavirus have been gradually lifted, tourists are still prevented from returning to the Holy Land.
“On the one hand, it is good for you to walk around without the crowds of tourists, but on the other hand, I prefer to be here, for the sake of the economy, and to experience Easter in the Holy Land,” says M.I Keizer.
In 2019, more than 25,000 people gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Palm Sunday, which kicks off Holy Week, according to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
“It’s nice to walk around without being crowded,” said Mike, an American who came with his family to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. “We managed to sit near (Jesus’) tomb, and you take the time to think, it was much more peaceful.”
But the absence of the pilgrims’ hordes robs a little of the Easter spirit, he admits.
Badr al-Rabadi, a Palestinian Christian from Jerusalem, is also glad to have turned the page on confinement on Easter, which is a “painful” moment.
However, this tour guide is firmly waiting for his fellow religious companions from abroad, to share with them the spirit of this festival, which is the most important in Christianity. Because “Jerusalem is not ours, it belongs to everyone.”