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News » International

Local Christians barred from Jerusalem's Holy Week events

Ban highlights ongoing plight of Palestinian Christians

Local Christians barred from Jerusalem's Holy Week events

Picture: Shutterstock

Independent Catholic News International

April 16, 2014

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While pilgrims from around the world are flocking to Jerusalem to attend Holy Week services, many local Christians are not being allowed to join them. Under the 'permit regime' some members of a family to travel while other are barred. Entire scout and school groups who have been preparing for weeks have not received permits.

In this article, Rifat Kassis, general coordinator of Kairos Palestine, and a member of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum Core group shares a reflection where he describes the emotional anguish that Palestinian Christians are facing. Kassis illustrates how, for Palestinians, Jerusalem is "both the universal sacred place where people go to pray and connect to the holy sites and the capital of my country, Palestine - even when the occupying state doesn't acknowledge it as such."

Jerusalem- the city we love most and visit least

Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus said: "Listen, we're going up to Jerusalem, where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true."

Then Jesus had his disciples bring him a colt, and they threw their cloaks over it for him to ride. The news of his arrival rippled through the city, and crowds poured out onto the road to see him.

For me - as for most Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians - Jerusalem is the city we love most and visit least.

As a little boy, I remember traveling to Jerusalem with my late father along the old road - a trip that took many hours due to the 'no-man's zone' that forbade us from directly accessing the divided city.

Despite the obstacles that existed even then, I remember going to Jerusalem as a deeply happy event. It meant eating the sweets we couldn't find in our village, and visiting the holy places we'd only heard about in school and church. Or else it meant going to the doctor, since most doctors were based in Jerusalem at that time. In any case, my sentimental relationship with the city is strong.

When the First Intifada broke out in 1987, Jerusalem was sealed off to those of us who lived in the so-called West Bank, and we had to obtain special permits in order to enter the city. Legally, visiting Jerusalem became impossible for me; because I was a past political prisoner, I was put on some kind of state blacklist, and so the Israeli authorities wouldn't grant me a permit.

Since 2002, I have not returned to Jerusalem. My 29-year-old son, Dafer, has never visited it at all, although he has probably traveled around half the world. Being barred from Jerusalem is a great emotional and psychological loss to me and to my family.

For Palestinian Christians, Jerusalem is marked not only by symbolic richness, but also by symbolic tensions. First of all, although Jerusalem is considered to be sacred for Christians all over the world -- the place of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, the birthplace of Christianity itself, the site of the first churches and the historical destination of pilgrimages -- it is in many ways a normal city for us, Palestinians. It is our political capital, and has traditionally been an economic hub, a center of tourism, health services and education.

In this sense, then, my relation to Jerusalem as a Palestinian Christian is twofold: it is, for me, both the universal sacred place where people go to pray and connect to the holy sites and the capital of my country, Palestine - even when the occupying state doesn't acknowledge it as such.

Even more powerfully, however, Jerusalem is the universal sacred place I cannot go to practice my faith, and the capital city I cannot visit.

Jerusalem is also a focal point of the Palestinian struggle: the place where our struggle began and where it will end. Its significance is symbolic on both a religious and a political scale, both for Palestinians and for Israelis.

Full Story: Jerusalem: Local Christians barred from attending Holy Week services

Source: Independent Catholic News

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