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Christians Fill Jerusalem's Old City For Holy Week Celebrations


For many, the trip is a sacrifice at a time of worldwide recession. Christian celebrations coincide this year with the Jewish festival of Passover, which has also drawn Jews to the Holy City. Pilgrims of various faiths used the occasion to pray for peace in the Middle East.

The scene has been repeated for two millennia. Christian pilgrims follow the Way of the Cross, the steps said to be the path taken by Jesus on his way from his condemnation and torture to the hill where he was crucified.

On Good Friday, as always, the singing was in Arabic, the language of local Christians.

Thousands came from afar. Pilgrims from West Africa recall the agony of Jesus. At a time of worldwide recession, the trip took some sacrifice.

"I made a sacrifice," Jean Clotaire Tetiali said. "But, listen. There is no price attached to God. I came here for Christ."

Israel's tourism ministry reports a 43-percent surge in the number of Christian pilgrims in the past eight years. On the streets here, some local merchants say they see the contrary - at least on this Easter.

"Business now is quiet this time," shop owner, Hani said. "You can see the streets are empty. There are not so many tourists. I don't know. Maybe it's the situation of the world, or the situation of Israel."

With Christian processions cutting through the Muslim Quarter, Israeli security forces made their presence known, a reminder of the tensions that plague the Holy Land. Many pilgrims say peace is in their prayers.

In the Jewish quarter, for Passover, thousands have visited the Western Wall, Judaism's most sacred shrine.

Passover is a time when Jews celebrate freedom, and God's deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. This man says, as a Jew, he is mindful of the plight of Palestinians and their own yearning for freedom.

"The Palestinians are crying for freedom because they are in distress," Chanoch, a Jewish worshipper commented. "That is why we Jews pray for our freedom, and we also pray that they get their freedom."

Israel closed off much of the West Bank for a week during the Passover holiday, citing terrorist threats. This means the holy city for now remains unreachable for many Palestinians.

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