In a series of tweets, the PLO Department of Public Diplomacy & Policy has accused Israel of preventing palestinian Christians from observing ‘the Saturday of light’ at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and even attacking them.
— PLO Department of Public Diplomacy & Policy (@PalestinePDP) May 1, 2021
And Israel faced criticism from others.
Although the centuries-old tradition went ahead as planned inside the church, Israeli police faced criticism for restricting access to the Old City.
“Since the morning, the Israeli police have closed the entrances to the Old City and prevented families from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” said Adeeb Jawad Joudeh Al Husseini, whose family hold the keys to the church.
“Jerusalem is sad. Hundreds of people were unable to enter the church.”
Reading this, you’d think Israel just arbitrarily decided to make things miserable for worshipers – and succeeded.
But if you read the mainstream media, you’ll see a different picture.
With Jerusalem under lockdown last year’s Holy Fire ceremony was held in the near-empty church that is revered by Christians as the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
“Last year it was a sad year,” said Rosaline Manees, a pilgrim from Jaffa. “This year is better, though not like other years as pilgrims from all over the world are not visiting the country. Today it is only us who live in the country. But, sure, better than last year.”
Israel’s swift vaccination drive has largely beaten back the pandemic in the past few months, allowing for restrictions on gatherings to be greatly eased as officials plan a resumption of international tourism in the coming months.
It seems that the police restrictions were mainly in place so Covid-19 guidelines could be followed.
A police spokesman said officers “had to act to prevent others from entering, due to the safety of the people following the Covid-19 guidelines.”
Also, the events from Mount Meron from the previous day seem to have played a part.
Police on Saturday were working to limit the number of pilgrims marking the Holy Fire ceremony at Christianity’s holiest site, a day after a deadly crush killed 45 people during Lag B’Omer festivities in northern Israel.
Heavy police presence and temporary barriers were seen by the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on the eve of Orthodox Easter.
Overnight Thursday-Friday at least 45 ultra-Orthodox pilgrims were crushed to death and more than 150 people hurt, including many critically, in a stampede at a mass gathering to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday at Mount Meron.
In Jerusalem Saturday, police scuffled with pilgrims making their way to the church as they attempted to control the massive crowds.
How can Israel be faulted for trying to ensure the safety of worshipers?
Imagine for a second that security was lax and this became a super spreader Covid-event and/or people were crushed? Israel would surely be criticized for not caring about the lives of palestinians and non-Jews.
And you can bet those criticizing us now for the security would be the ones shouting the loudest.
Hat tip: Michael