By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
DALLAS – Tens of thousands of Christians are expected to visit Israel to celebrate Holy Week and Easter in the next two weeks and visit the very places described in the New Testament.
“There is nothing like experiencing Holy Week in Jerusalem,” according to Don Weitz, marketing and sales consultant with E.D.I. Travel Israel Tours.
“Celebrating the greatest events of salvation history and of Jesus’ life at the very sites where they occurred is a moving and unforgettable experience of faith for all believers,” he told ASSIST News Service.
“On Easter and the preceding Holy Week, Jerusalem fills will pilgrims from all over the world,” Weitz said.
“On Palm Sunday (March 20), more than 1,000 Catholic and Protestant pilgrims come streaming down the Mount of Olives singing hymns and bearing palm fronds, reenacting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A procession takes place in the afternoon, beginning at the Bethpage Church on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and descending into Gethsemane and ending in the Old City at the Church of St. Anne’s. Olive Trees in Garden of Gethsemane,” he said.
Weitz said that another highlight is Maundy Thursday (March 24), when the faithful commemorate the Last Supper and the washing of the apostle’s feet by Jesus and his last hours prior to his arrest in Gethsemane.
“In the afternoon, a short Catholic prayer service in several languages takes place at the Cenacle, while the Anglican, Lutheran and Protestant denominations hold a procession from St. George’s Cathedral to the Redeemer’s Church and Christ Church, ending at Gethsemane,” Weitz stated.
Weitz said that on Good Friday a procession of thousands bearing crosses and led by the Patriarch, the Custodian of the Holy Sites, and other independent groups marks the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City to the Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
“In the evening, a burial procession is held in the Holy Sepulcher (Catholics), in the Old City churches and at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (Protestants), where services are also held in English.”
Weitz described how, on Easter Sunday (March 27), when the faithful celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, the Latin Patriarch heads a procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for a multi-lingual reading of the Gospel of Resurrection and celebration of the Easter Masses.
He said Protestants partake in the Easter services in English at the Garden Tomb and several Protestant churches in Jerusalem.
Please see a schedule of Garden Tomb Easter events at this link www.gardentomb.com/easter-2016
Photo: Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.