Palestinian Christians and foreign pilgrims marked Good Friday with a procession through Jerusalem’s cobbled Old City on Friday amid increased security measures during an ongoing wave of violence.
A few thousand Christians commemorated the day they believe Jesus Christ died by following the path he is said to have walked carrying his cross to his crucifixion.
Several streets in the walled Old City were blocked off by Israeli security forces, with police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirming they had deployed there in larger numbers than usual.
The majority of Palestinian Christians come from the eastern tradition, which celebrates Easter on the weekend of May 1 this year. But those from the Catholic and other Western churches hold their ceremonies this weekend.
Some Palestinian Christians carried crosses, while others sang hymns.
Carl-Leo von Honenthal, a 31-year-old German Protestant pilgrim, said he was very moved by the procession.
“It is very beautiful to be here with people peacefully walking together from all over the world,” he said.
A Norwegian explained he had traveled from Tanzania, where he is a missionary, especially for the weekend.
For the dozens of shops selling Christian iconography and trinkets along the way, however, the situation was less positive.
In the nearly six months of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October, 29 Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed. About 190 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.
The ongoing wave of violence has put a damper on tourism in the bazaars of the Old City, shopkeepers said.
Shop owner Jihad Abu Diya said this was the worst year in the past decade, saying the foreign pilgrims were not buying anything.
The collapse of the Russian rouble, he added, meant many Russian visitors had little to spend.
“It is going from bad to worse,” he said.
Nabeel Sayam, who runs a shop selling Christian mementos along the path of the procession, agreed the numbers of foreigners was far lower than last year.