JERUSALEM (AP) — Roman Catholics and Protestants in the Holy Land commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in prayers and processions on Friday through Jerusalem's Old City.
In the town of Beit Jala, adjacent to Bethlehem, Palestinian Catholics re-enacted Jesus' stations of the cross in their olive groves and vineyards. Father Ibrahim Shomali led the Good Friday procession in Arabic, wearing a white tunic and purple clerical shawl. Dozens of believers followed him, bearing Palestinian flags and olivewood crosses.
Several dozen Palestinian Christians conducted prayers on their farmland this year, which sits between two Israeli settlements and along the route of Israel's planned separation barrier, said Xavier Abueid, a Palestinian adviser, who participated in the prayers there.
The prayers on the farms were conducted to highlight and protest what Palestinians say is Israel's increasing restrictions on Palestinians accessing their lands, particularly in areas abutting the Jewish state and Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Palestinian grievances are also echoed by prominent rights groups working in Israel.
Israel's government says it needs to prevent Palestinian access to certain land to prevent clashes in areas where there are poor relations with Jewish settlers. In other places, Israel says it needs the land to build its separation barrier to keep out Palestinian attackers.
For the Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations that observe the new, Gregorian calendar, Good Friday this year coincides with the Jewish Passover holiday, which started at sundown. Orthodox Christians, who follow the old, Julian calendar, will mark Easter a week later.
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