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Home حماية Israeli Limits on Christians’ Holy Fire Celebration

Israeli Limits on Christians’ Holy Fire Celebration

To commemorate what they consider a miracle, pilgrims journey to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City.

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To commemorate what they consider a miracle, pilgrims journey to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Christians from all over the world have flocked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in occupied East Jerusalem to celebrate the Holy Fire ceremony, an age-old custom that this year caused unrest with the Israeli police.

A flame retrieved from Jesus’ grave in the church is used to light believers’ candles in Greek Orthodox communities during the event that has been held every year for more than a thousand years. The believers think that the flame’s mysterious origins are a miracle.

After much waiting on Saturday, a priest lit his candle by reaching into the shadowy grave. The worshippers turned to their neighbour to let them light a candle from theirs as they shared the light with one another. The dimly illuminated church gradually started to glow as the tiny spots of light combined to illuminate the entire structure finally.

Bells chimed. The multilingual believers screamed, “Christ is risen!” “He is risen, indeed!”

Many people in the church, constructed on the spot where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised, were overjoyed to observe Orthodox Easter week in Jerusalem. However, Israel’s severe restrictions on event capacity dashed the dreams of other Christians for the second year in a row.

The number of participants in the rite has been regulated in Israel at 1,800. According to Israeli authorities, this restriction is necessary to uphold public safety.

However, Jerusalem’s minority Christians worry that Israel would change their status in the Old City by allowing entry to Jews while restricting the number of Christians who can attend services there.

Despite Israeli concerns, the Greek Orthodox patriarchate has blasted the restrictions as a barrier to religious freedom and urged all believers to swarm the church.

Israeli police began turning away the majority of worshippers from the gates of the Old City as early as 8 am (05:00 GMT), including tourists flying in from Europe and Palestinian Christians travelling from all over the occupied West Bank. Instead, they have led to an overflow of live-streamed places.

a live-streamed place.
Only a trickle of ticketed tourists and locals were let inside as angry pilgrims and clergy pushed their way through while police battled to stop them. Over 2,000 police policemen surrounded the stone fortifications.

Following the ritual, Christians from Palestine carried the Holy Fire through the streets and ignited the candles of believers who had gathered outside. The shimmering lanterns will go to Russia, Greece, and other countries aboard chartered aircraft.

Christians in the Holy Land, including the head of the Roman Catholic Church there, as well as local Palestinians and Armenians, claim that the most right-wing government in Israel’s history has given the power to hardline Jews who have increased their vandalism of religious property and harassment of Christian clergy. This has led to a dispute over the church’s capacity.

Israel stated that it is dedicated to ensuring the freedom of worship for Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

On April 15, 2023, police turned many Christians away from the Holy Fire ritual after Israel set a limit of 1,800 individuals. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

Minority Christians in Jerusalem worry that Israel may use increased security measures to change their standing in the Old City. They claim that while its government allows Jews access, the number of Christians who attend services is restricted. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

Before the torch was handed from worshipper to worshipper and later was transported to Orthodox communities all over the world, about 10,000 worshippers would fill the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and many more would swarm outside. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

According to Israeli authorities, restrictions on crowd size are put in place to protect the general public. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, Christians made up more than 18% of the population of the Holy Land; now, they make up less than 2%. They are predominantly Orthodox. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, Christians made up more than 18% of the population of the Holy Land; now, they make up less than 2%. They are predominantly Orthodox. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

The most significant event in the Orthodox calendar is commemorated by the rite, which involves passing a flame from candle to candle around the church that the believers believe miraculously ignites inside Jesus’ tomb each year. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

Every year, on the day before Orthodox Easter, the Holy Fire ceremony is performed. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

For the second year in a row, Israeli authorities have severely restricted entry to the church, which is located in East Jerusalem that is under Israeli occupation. By Faiz Abu Rmeleh for Al Jazeera

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