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After the excellent sunrise service, I started to make my way across the Mt. of Olives to get to the Old City. Although it is an area declared “wholly unsafe” by my school, I walked through it again, greeting many people as I went through, and given “Salaam” in return, as per usual. Walking in dress clothes on such a hot day wasn’t so much fun, especially not the (at points) 60 degree inclined plane that is the side of the Mt. of Olives. Walking down through the Jewish cemetery, I made a quick stop at Dominus Flevit and took a look at the spectacular, shining Dome of the Rock from the best seat in Jerusalem. Continuing onwards down the hill, I first thought of stopping into the Garden of Gethsemane, but then I realized that most of the church services in the city would probably be in the morning. As such, I first called Justine to see if I could accompany her family to Bethlehem for the French service they were going to, but I realized that I didn’t have my passport and would therefore be unable to get back into Israel easily.

As such, I decided to go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and meet up with some friends; on Easter in Jerusalem, what better place to go than the Catholic, Orthodox, and Armenian location of the burial of Jesus? Walking through the thoroughly crowded streets, I made my way towards the equally-crowded plaza in front of the Sepulchre. Along the way, I saw a ridiculous number of IDF and police walking around in groups of 5 or more, and then even more soldiers stationed at intersections and other points of possible need for defense. As I was told more than two weeks later, apparently a deranged man decided to go into a rage in the streets of the Old City on Good Friday, and stabbed several individuals – so that only served to strengthen the Israeli government’s intention to provide complete security. No cars were allowed into the Old City, and other such policies were implemented for Easter only.

Arriving in the plaza, I met up with my friends and realized that I wanted to wait whatever time it would take to get into the Sepulchre, as the crowds in front of the temporarily closed doors were huge (the doors were closed for a short period of time after each procession returned to the church). I joined the mass (there was no line or queue, of course), and eventually was able to get in. The Sepulchre was absolutely packed, and people just kept coming in. The red stone, said to be the burial stone of Jesus, was particularly reverenced by the pilgrims, with most people praying in front of it, many kneeling and kissing it, and some rubbing it down in an attempt to clean it. Further into the Sepulchre, all sorts of bright and cheerful decorations, and they opened additional windows and skylights, so that it was actually bright within the sanctuary for once (a beautiful sight). Waiting in the milling crowd, a procession eventually started after the Catholic church blessed and sanctified the empty tomb. Although I still can’t quite figure out which procession I was a part of, go check out the next post for more details.

A few brief videos to give a better sense of how it was to be inside the Holy Sepulchre on Easter:

and more of a focus on the Tomb itself:

And a whole bunch of photographs:

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