This year the Easter feast in Jerusalem will be like no other. A number of specific circumstances will ensure an even larger than usual onslaught of pilgrims and tourists.In 2017 the Easter celebrations will take place on the same days, despite the differences in the calendar systems of the Eastern and Western Christian churches. Moreover, this year, for the first time, the central Easter celebrations will take place in the newly-restored Aedicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In addition, the Jewish feast of Passover is being celebrated that same week. The Israeli tourism ministry expects a rise of 15 percent in tourist numbers for the Passover and Easter holidays compared to last year. A spokeswoman said the ministry anticipates about 80,000 Christian pilgrims to arrive for Holy Week, and just as many Jewish tourists for the festival of Passover. In the past two years, tourist numbers declined considerably because of the tense security situation in Jerusalem and the region.
On Good Friday, Christians of all denominations carry large wooden crosses, walking in the footsteps of Jesus along the Via Dolorosa. The Way of the Cross ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where six Christian denominations hold services according to an exact timetable.
The more than 1200-year-old liturgy of the Holy Fire at midday on Holy Saturday is considered the climax of the Orthodox Easter celebrations. According to Orthodox tradition, a flame within the Aedicule, the chapel venerated as Christ’s tomb, miraculously lights itself. Candles lit from the flame are then passed on to the faithful in the overcrowded church and the lanes of the Old City.
According to the police, for safety reasons entry to the fire ceremony will again be limited to 10,000 people this year. This year, for the first time, large screens will be set up in the inner courtyard of the Collège des Frères to broadcast the celebration. It is still unclear whether Christians from the Gaza Strip will be allowed to travel to Jerusalem or to the West Bank for Easter. According to a Christian pastor in Gaza City, travel permits are not yet available.