The last time Ramadan for Muslims, Passover for Jews, and Easter for Christians all happened on the same weekend was 33 years ago, as on Good Friday, Christians commemorated Jesus’ crucifixion, and on Sunday, celebrated Easter and His resurrection.
However, last Friday, 150 Palestinians were injured by Israeli police inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and on Easter Sunday, more than 20 Israelis and Palestinians were wounded in and around the compound. Local religious leaders noted that extremist settler organizations were entering the mosque, violating a sacred space that must be respected.
Violence has wracked Israel and the occupied West Bank from late March and early April, leading to the deaths of 36 people.
Restrictions on religious activities
Israeli authorities placed restrictions on religious activities in Jerusalem over the Easter weekend.
The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressed grave concerns on 11 April over announced police restrictions on Holy Fire Saturday. The World Council of Churches (WCC) followed, condemning restricted access to places of worship as violations of Holy Land religious freedom.
"Jerusalem is sacred," declared WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca. "It is sacred for all three monotheistic religions, and access to Jerusalem is an inalienable right for all people of these faiths. Christians have been living on this land and witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ for more than 2000 years.
"The resurrection is at the heart of our Christian faith and at the heart of all Christian communities in the world. We cannot accept measures that challenge the fundamental rights of our churches to celebrate this centre point of our faith.”
Increasingly difficult Easter
For years, participating in prayers and access to churches in Jerusalem's Old City, especially during Easter holidays, has become increasingly difficult, church leaders say.
The additional restrictions announced for Holy Fire Saturday added to violations and pressures on the Holy Land churches, including attacks on clergy, threats against churches and church properties, and limitations on access to worship.
Under this year's restrictions for the Orthodox Holy Fire Saturday, limited numbers of people will be allowed to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and fewer will be permitted access to the Patriarchate roof overlooking the yard of the Holy Sepulchre Church in the Old City. Religious leaders have expressed concern that these restrictions will bring more frustration and friction as Christians will try to access their church.
While Christians worshipped on Good Friday, Jewish believers celebrated the eve of Pesach, commonly called Passover, to commemorate the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the end of their slavery.