Crucifixion Friday in the Old City

Many Christians from around the world were expected to flood the city for Good Friday, and they did. In fact, since Passover and Eastern and Western Easter falls on the same weekend this year, the city seemed particularly crowded. In expectation of the large crowds the Israeli government implemented new access procedures at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which created a lot of tensions. Flags like the one below could be seen throughout the Christian Quarter.

The flag is aimed at the Israeli authority’s efforts to control the crowds, which at times ended up communicating to those wanting to be near or inside the church that they were not allowed to worship. Obviously, once the new arrangements were announced, someone(s) went into action to highlight the Israeli actions and paint them as negatively as possible. However, being in the area today, I must admit, one could easily get a very negative impression without the presence of the flags.

Here are the police controlling access to the church:

The police were standing behind barricades, allowing people to enter in very small numbers. At one point, tensions were so high that the riot police were called in:

I was told that things escalated to the point of blows being exchanged. I did not see that, but I have no reason to doubt it.

It seems to me that the Israelis are in a no win situation here: If they don’t control the crowds, there is a real possibility of a stampede or worse, and they will be accused of shirking their responsibility for public safety. If they do control the crowds, they are accused of preventing pilgrims from worshiping. 

History indicates that during times like these, the various Christian groups that have authority within the church facility can’t manage to get along without violence, so I’m not sure what I would advise them to do.

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