Pilgrims from around the world packed into the narrow cobblestone alleyways of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City to take part in the traditional Good Friday procession. Singing hymns and reading passages from the Bible, they retraced the footsteps of Jesus to the 14 Stations of the Cross.
“Oh, it’s an honor to be in this land like this. It’s been great. It helps with my belief, it helps with my faith, it helps with everything," said Gary Osterberg who traveled here from Canada.
In the Holy Land, religion and politics are never far apart. The Easter holidays come six weeks before the United States plans to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I think that the Americans moving the embassy to Jerusalem is the right thing to do. I think it’s the proper thing to do. And I wish that Canada would follow suit and do the same thing also: move the Canadian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," Osterberg told VOA.
Palestinians are furious over the embassy move and U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Imad, a shopkeeper in the Arab bazaar, said Jerusalem is the future capital of a Palestinian state.
“I do not expect anything from Donald Trump, so I expect bad things," he said. "This is, you know, part of what they are doing against Palestinians: another step, another thing, which will hurt Palestinians.”
Jewish pilgrims also flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the start of the week-long biblical holiday of Passover. Rabbis here say the U.S. embassy move reinforces the Passover theme of “Jerusalem rebuilt.”