Holy Week began with the annual Palm Sunday procession. Members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams joined Palestinians on the first leg of the journey from Bethany to the Wall. Internationals, Israelis and Palestinians on the other side of the wall continued the procession from Bethphage through ancient gates into Jerusalem. These reflections from CPT and from Reformed Mission Workers, Marlin and Sally Vis, are reprinted with permission.
Al Eizariya/Bethany Palm Sunday Procession
17 March 2008
AL EIZARIYA/BETHANY – On Palm Sunday, 16 March, Palestinians and internationals, Muslims and Christians, gathered at the Lazarus Gate checkpoint to commemorate Palm Sunday and highlight the travel restrictions the Israeli government imposes on Palestinians through the use of permits and Israel’s separation barrier. Most Palestinians from the West Bank cannot travel to Jerusalem.
Palestinians and internationals processed in the path that Jesus traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem. Participants carried olive branches, palm leaves, and signs reading, “Stop the Wall” and “Where could Jesus go?” When they arrived at the Lazarus Gate the group worshipped together.
Nora Carmi of Sabeel said, “Today, what we are doing is re-living this memory [of Jesus] and challenging the authorities in the same nonviolent, peaceful way, that Jesus did . . . A few soldiers with their guns and their tear gas, are not going to stop us from praying.”
Israeli border police arrived and threatened to fire tear gas at the worshippers, but they continued with some Scripture readings. While the group were completing their event on the grounds of a local religious community, the border police came and again told the worshippers to disperse.
After the service, many internationals continued on to Jerusalem to be a witness at the regular Palm Sunday procession for the Palestinian Christians who could not travel to Jerusalem.
Palm Sunday Pictures
March 17, 2008
Yesterday was the yearly first Palm Sunday walk - first because Orthodox Palm Sunday is a couple of weeks away. The walk begins at Bethphage (House of Figs) and proceeds down through Lion's Gate and into Saint Anne's Church located just inside the city walls.
The walk starts just on the other side of this wall, which separates biblical Bethany from the Mount of Olives. This picture was taken from the Bethany side of the Separation Barrier, just five minutes from tradition's site for Lazarus's tomb.
And here they come - the procession proceeds down the Mount of Olives toward the Old City, let by four Israeli soldiers. Tourists often remark about how odd it is to have soldiers in full battle gear leading the Palm Sunday procession, but for locals these soldiers are just part of the landscape. They are there as a presence for the purpose of keeping order, but it does serve to put in perspective Palm Sunday in contemporary Jerusalem. You have to wonder where the soldiers were on the first Palm Sunday walk, the one Jesus led seated on the back of a donkey. Roman soldiers were there of course, watching the crowd as it made it's way toward the city of Jerusalem. These Roman soldiers worried over the crowd as well, wondering if the motley crew made up mostly of children was planning celebration or revolution. Imagine their relief when Jesus led the crowd into the Temple through the Beautiful Gate and not toward their stronghold, the Antonio Fortress, by the then Sheep's Gate. I know, it's confusing, but stay with me.
And there they go, into the Old City, and because the Beautiful Gate is no longer there, and the Golden Gate, near where Beautiful Gate once stood was closed by one of the Muslim sultan's, the crowd passes through the gate that would have led up to the Antonio Fortress, where Pilate was no doubt staying for the dangerous time of the festival of Passover. Was Pilate watching too? Who is watching this crowd? Are they dangerous too? It could be that we are a danger to the principalities and powers. At the very least, we should be. Right? Not because we would revolt, but because we follow that first parade marshal who came riding on a donkey, unarmed except for a divine, internal resolve to redeem the world by the only means possible - his own self. And if it meant suffering, then so be it. And if it meant death, then so be it. And if there was something more to come, something transcending suffering and death, something like resurrection, well then, so be it as well. A man on a donkey rode into a city rife with corruption at every level, sold out completely to violent solutions to every problem, conflicted and factioned, and the man on the donkey knew by then that only the children would understand the significance, because only the children were willing to follow a man on a donkey rather than a man with a sword.
Who is following the man on the donkey today? And where is the man on the donkey leading us?