Thousands of pilgrims converged on Jerusalem to celebrate Palm Sunday. Church bells rang through the cobblestone alleyways of Jerusalem's Old City, marking Palm Sunday and the beginning of Easter Holy Week.

Priests wearing festive red robes and carrying palm branches led a procession through the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  Pilgrims from around the world joined the march, engulfed in a fragrant cloud of incense.
Palm Sunday marks Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey 2,000 years ago. According to the Bible, people threw palm branches on the road to welcome him.

Emily Foss came from Salt Lake City in the U.S. state of Utah. "I think it is wonderful to be in the Holy Land, especially here at the Holy Sepulcher.  It is wonderful to see people acting in faith. It is definitely a sacred city," she said.

Stephanie Tanner of Seattle, Washington said the pilgrimage strengthened her faith.  "I am so glad to be here, this is really fulfilling a life dream for me . I believe with all my heart that what is written in the Bible took place here in Jerusalem," she said.

There were fewer pilgrims than in recent years because tourism dropped off in the wake of the Gaza War in January, when Israel battled the Palestinian militant group Hamas.  But Matt Morgan of Utah said he thinks Jerusalem is safe. "I feel fine. I do not feel threatened at all being here in Jerusalem.  I think that just the general people here want peace and hope for peace.  And I do not feel threatened by being here," he said.

On Good Friday, pilgrims will retrace the footsteps of Jesus to the 14 Stations of the Cross.  Holy Week culminates on Easter Sunday as Christians celebrate the resurrection.