Christians: Israel violates Palestinian religious freedoms each Easter
Published Sunday 06/04/2014 (updated) 06/05/2014 16:15
Palestinian priest Father Shomali leads an open air mass on church
lands threatened with confiscation by Israeli authorities for the
separation wall on April 6, 2012 (AFP/Musa al Shaer)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A group of Christians from East Jerusalem on Sunday said that Israel's restrictions on Palestinian mobility resulted in violations of religious freedoms.
The statement, signed "Palestinian Christian Organizations in Occupied East Jerusalem," complained that Christians are often denied access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the Easter holidays.
Each Easter, checkpoints are erected "at the Gates and in the alley, thus preventing the worshipers from free access to the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the vicinity of the Christian Quarter."
Israel's restrictions on Palestinian Christians are a part of larger strategy of Judaization in Jerusalem, the statement said.
"The restrictive measures constitute grave violation on the freedom of worship, and amount to discrimination against Christians because the occupation authorities want to negate Christian presence and create the impression of a Jewish-only city."
Both Christians and Muslims are often "unable to worship freely and to be with their families and friends" during religious holidays because of Israel's actions, the statement went on to note.
The organizations called on Christians to make attempts to attend Easter celebrations in Jerusalem despite the countless restrictions.
In a report published in 2012, the US State Department made similar observations.
"Strict closures and curfews imposed by the Israeli government negatively affected residents' ability to practice their religion at holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, as well as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem," the report said.
"The separation barrier significantly impeded Bethlehem-area Christians from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and made visits to Christian sites in Bethany (al-Eizariya) and Bethlehem difficult for Palestinian Christians who live on the Jerusalem side of the barrier."
East Jerusalem, including the historic Old City, was occupied by Israeli forces in 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognized by the international community.