HOLY WEEK 2021: CELEBRATIONS RETURN TO ISRAEL

April 3, 2021

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Holy Week 2021: Israel is welcoming the faithful after a year hiatus

Easter and Jewish Passover is the holiest time of the year for people observing the Christian and Jewish faiths. Jerusalem is buzzing at this time of the year with religious celebrations, but 2020 was not a typical year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With more than a third of the city vaccinated, religious celebrations have resumed throughout Jerusalem since Palm Sunday; and they will continue through Easter Sunday.

Spring of 2020

A year ago, police had to detain people from celebrating their faith during Easter and Jewish Passover. Police blocked checkpoints so Jewish families could not convene for the Passover meal.

For Christians, priests shut the door at the church where Jesus’ tomb is located, and the Palm Sunday procession was canceled on the Mount of Olives. Jerusalem authorities have relaxed all restrictions for this weekend, so celebrations can resume.

Holy Week 2021

After a year of no celebrations, it seems like the 2021 Holy Week activities have grown immensely. During the Palm Sunday procession, people were socially distanced in clusters. This kept the symbolism of staying close, but nobody was intentionally exposed to people they are not typically around.

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Roman Catholic leader in Jerusalem, told NPR that:

“We need to celebrate. After one year of lockdowns and problems and deaths and diseases, we want to start living normally as much as possible.”

Pizzaballa successfully recovered from COVID-19 before Christmas, so he has first-hand knowledge of the virus’s power.

On Monday and Tuesday, Jewish people in Jerusalem congregated at the Western Wall for the priestly blessing that is given annually on Passover. The blessing was done in two days this year, so more people could attend without drawing massive crowds.

The nation welcomes safety measures, and this contributes to the return to normalcy.

On Good Friday, Christians walked the path that Jesus did before he was crucified. Only a few thousand walked the route this year instead of the thousands that usually does.

There are plenty of Christians and Jewish people who have continued to celebrate in their own homes. But there is much more activity occurring this year. The hope for Holy Week 2022 is to have no restrictions, but this year of uncertainty has not caused anyone to think that far ahead.

Holy Week 2021: Israel’s Safety Measures

A reason that crowds are down is because Israel has blocked international visitors from coming to Jerusalem. All Holy Week celebrations have only been citizens of Israel. This is a week that Jerusalem usually sees an influx of visitors, so these safety precautions will help prevent the virus from spiking.

Palestinian Christians are visiting the nation during the COVID-19 as the main demographic. There have not been many vaccines given in Palestine, so there was no chance that the Israeli government would loosen restrictions for visitors to the country.

Holy Week will conclude on Sunday with Easter. It will be interesting to see how religious activities affected the COVID-19 rate in Jerusalem and throughout the world.

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