Christians are celebrating Easter, to mark the day when they believe Jesus arose from the dead.
Pilgrims ushered in Easter with a Sunrise Service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. The site resembles the place where Jesus was buried, according to biblical accounts. Facing an ancient, empty tomb carved into a rock, the faithful sang hymns of the resurrection.
A short time later, Easter Mass was celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Priests and monks in festive robes chanted the liturgy engulfed in a fragrant cloud of incense. The faithful worshipped around the ancient stone tomb believed to be the very place where Jesus rose from the dead.
Pilgrims came from all over the world, including Chris Murphy from the U.S. state of Texas.
“It is just a special experience being in the Holy Land and seeing places that you have read about, it makes it more real. And it has an impact on your life that you will not forget,” said Murphy.
Security was tight amid Israeli-Palestinian tensions over plans by the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May. But Murphy took it in stride as Israeli soldiers armed with assault rifles patrolled the streets.
“I have always felt safe here. On the whole, people pretty well live together and get along,” said Murphy.
Indeed, Christians mingled with Muslim shopkeepers and Jewish pilgrims visiting Jerusalem for the weeklong biblical Feast of Passover.
But political differences run deep. Israelis like Rivka Katz praised U.S. President Donald Trump for his controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and urged other nations to follow suit.
“Why should not there be the [U.S.] Embassy in Jerusalem, which is our capital? It seems quite outrageous that most of the countries of the world have refused to recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” said Katz.
Palestinians are furious over the embassy move because they see Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. As one Arab shopkeeper put it, “Trump has taken the joy out of Easter.”