Watch CBS News

Christians in Jerusalem cautiously celebrate Easter amid Israel-Hamas war

Easter celebrations in Jerusalem amid war
Christians in Jerusalem celebrate Easter in the midst of the Israel-Hamas war 03:03

As the war between Israel and Hamas continues in Gaza, many Christian pilgrims have stayed away from the Holy Land this Easter, but in Jerusalem, the thousands of Christians who live in the city have begun to celebrate annual rituals amid an increasingly hostile environment. 

On Good Friday, Christian pilgrims could be seen filling the city's ancient alleyways, praying and singing as they walked the Via Dolorosa, which translates to "The Way of Suffering." Christians believe that Jesus walked this route when he carried the cross to the hill where he would be crucified. 

While many Christians who might normally participate in the pilgrimage stayed away, those who attended said they weren't afraid, despite the ongoing war. Kurt Blackwelder, a minister from North Carolina who traveled to Jerusalem despite the violence, said he wasn't "at all" frightened. 

Pilgrims travel on the Via Dolorosa. CBS Saturday Morning

Jerusalem is a contested city, considered a holy place by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Both Israelis and Palestinians have claimed it as a capital. Many of the Christians in Jerusalem are Palestinian. The community has experienced a spike in assaults by ultra-Orthodox Jews, with Palestinian Christians reporting that they have been spit at. 

"It's very uncommon for people to be arrested," said Father Bernard Poggi, who is from California but has lived in Jerusalem for ten years, where he preaches to the Palestinian Christian community. 

Poggi said he fears even worse backlash.

"Our worst fear is that people won't have the right to pray," Poggi said. "Our worst fear is that people will be removed, those who want to come to this holy city to pray, as they are now, will be rejected, that they're not given permission to come."

In Gaza, Palestinian Christians are struggling to simply stay alive. Hundreds have taken shelter inside churches in the Gaza Strip, hoping for protection. At Gaza's Holy Family Church, those sheltering inside celebrated Palm Sunday, reciting the Catholic profession of faith. 

Blackwelder said that he has been spending time with a family of Palestinian Muslims during his pilgrimage, and said that he hoped there could be unity between the different groups. 

"I love them dearly. I love them all," he said, referring to his guides. "I wish we could all come together in one, one, one spirit, one belief." 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.