Jerusalem is hosting Jewish, Christian, and Muslim celebrations this Sunday amidst an escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Thousands of faithful gathered for Easter, Pesach, and the beginning of Ramadan, while Israeli authorities deployed a large police presence in the Old City, where there have been clashes between the three religions. The region has seen a rise in violence since Israeli forces raided the al-Aqsa mosque on Wednesday, which sparked international condemnation and heightened tensions. There have been anti-Israel attacks, rocket fire from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, and Israeli reprisals since then. Pope Francis expressed concern over the violence and urged the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
The morning Easter mass took place in the Holy Sepulchre, an area in which various Christian denominations dispute claim. Jewish worshipers went to the Wailing Wall and were blessed by Cohanim, and Muslims prayed at the third holy place in Islam on the Esplanade of the Mosques, which is built on what the Jews consider the Temple Mount. In theory, Jews are not allowed to access the Temple Mount due to rabbis’ prohibitions, but many ignore the veto. Jewish ultra-nationalists have increasingly prayed in secret in recent years after visiting the site as ordinary tourists, which has produced tension.
The situation is deteriorating, according to Mahmoud Mansur, a 65-year-old Palestinian. The police support “every morning” the visits by Jews to “leave Muslims aside.” Yet, Mansur adds that they will continue to fight in the hope that there will one day be peace in Jerusalem. Recent events have increased tension, with Israeli forces violently evicting worshipers during nighttime prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and rockets being fired at Israeli territory from Lebanon. Israel has retaliated, bombing infrastructure belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where it rules, and in southern Lebanon. On Friday, there were two more attacks, one in which two Israeli sisters were killed in the occupied West Bank, and another in Tel Aviv where an Italian tourist died. So far this year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken the lives of at least 92 Palestinians, 18 Israelis, one Ukrainian, and one Italian.