The liturgy and procession in the church’s ancient courtyard followed an annual gathering on Friday afternoon, when parishioners wove palm reeds into crosses and baskets for yesterday’s event.
Unlike Christians in much of the world, those in the besieged Gaza Strip cannot attend religious celebrations elsewhere in Palestine without special authorization by Israeli occupation authorities.
The Israeli army’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit only issues a small number of these permits, to Christians younger than 16 or older than 35.
Christians between these ages, too old, young, or ill to travel without assistance by relatives in the prohibited age range, or arbitrarily denied permits, as well as all the Gaza Strip’s large Muslim majority, are prevented from accessing religious sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and elsewhere.
This year COGAT authorized roughly 540 Greek Orthodox Christians to travel to the occupied West Bank for Easter celebrations, out of a current population around 1,500.