Palm Sunday

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“We need to undomesticated Palm Sunday in our churches. Jesus was staging a kind of counter-demonstration. While Pilate rode into the city on a military stallion, Jesus entered on a borrowed donkey, symbolized sovereignty—but also Zechariah’s promise that Yahweh would one day banish the war horse forever! The procurator claimed the Pax Romana, the Nazarene a ‘Pax Christi.’ Pretty subversive stuff—and our churches have the habit of recreating that ‘demonstration’ in our Palm Sunday liturgies. But to really represent this gospel story in our world, we need to re-contextualize its symbols into our political moment, and re-place our witness back into public space.”–Ched Myers

 

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News Flash:Palestinians Allowed to Travel to Jerusalem for Easter

Freedom march from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, 27.03.2010The Israeli Embassy has confirmed this afternoon with Sojourners that travel restrictions preventing Palestinian Christians from entering Jerusalem for Holy Week and Easter have been lifted.

[UPDATE since this story was first posted at 5pm 3/31/2010 : According to representatives from Holy Land Trust, two staff members of which are still in prison after a nonviolent demonstration against such restrictions: By “lifting” travel restrictions from the West Bank to Jerusalem, Israeli officials are merely referring to ending a total curfew imposed a few days ago on access even to people previously granted selective permission to get into Jerusalem. This does not mean that all Palestinian Christians are now allowed entry into Jerusalem to freely celebrate Easter. This only means that Christians who applied for a permission (not all did or could) and who got one (not all did or could) can now take advantage of the permission (if they got it) that “allows” them to enter from one occupied territory into another through the long and humiliating process of going through the checkpoints. Even then, restrictions have already been put in place on access to the Old City for the Holy Fire service on Holy Saturday, which is the most important ceremony for the Greek Orthodox and the Eastern rite communities. Israeli army radio reported 10,000 permits were granted this year; not even a quarter of the Christians in the West Bank. ]

This afternoon, Rev. Michael Kinnamon, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, received a telephone call from Dr. Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, stating that travel restrictions that prevented Palestinian Christians from visiting Christian sacred sites in Jerusalem were at least temporarily lifted.

“I received a call from (Oren) indicating he had been in touch with Israeli officials,” said Kinnamon in a press release, “and that they have now assured him that travel restrictions on Palestinian Christians from the West Bank have been lifted for Easter — and that we should notify him directly if there are reports from check points that these orders are not being followed.”

NCC press secretary Philip Jenks told Sojourners that Rev. Kinnamon had sent a letter to the Middle East Council of Churches notifying them of the phone call. The letter stated:

“The National Council of Churches in the USA has been deeply disturbed with reports of travel restrictions on Christians from the West Bank who may try to reach Jerusalem for Easter-related events and services. In that regard we enlisted the help of Jewish leaders in the United States, and they urged the Israeli government to rethink this policy.

On Wednesday morning I received a call from Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, indicating that he had been in touch with Israeli officials and that they have now assured him that travel restrictions on Palestinian Christians from the West Bank have been lifted for Easter — and that we should notify him directly if there are reports from check points that these new orders are not being followed.”

Joshua Silverberg, press secretary for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., confirmed that the facts of this announcement were true and consistent with what the Ambassador had conveyed. Sojourners has not yet been able to confirm with Palestinian Christians or the Ecumenical Accompaniment Teams if the checkpoints are open.–by Rose Marie Berger

Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor at Sojourners, blogs at www.rosemarieberger.com. She’s the author of the forthcoming book Who Killed Donte Manning?: The Story of an American Neighborhood (Apprentice House, April 2010).

What Palm Sunday Really Looks Like – Even the Donkey Got Arrested

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. … As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.  As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”–Luke 19:28

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Protesters crossed the main gate in the separation wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem on Palm Sunday 2010. Around 200 Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals walked from the Nativity Square toward Jerusalem, against the restrictions imposed by the Israelis. These restrictions were tighter than usual and directed toward the right to worship as many Christians will not be able to go to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter.

The crowd managed to outnumber and surprise the Israeli soldiers and security forces at Bethlehem checkpoint and managed to walk through. After having walked 300 meters on the road to Jerusalem, they were stopped by Israeli soldiers. After having declared the march over and as they were walking back to Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers attacked the crowd and arrested around 15 persons, among them a Palestinian cameraman, an Israeli photographer, members of the popular committee from Al Ma’sara, and staff from Holy Trust.

Freedom march from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, 27.03.2010

Here’s one account:

“More than 100 native Palestinian Christians and Muslims and internationals including Israelis, breached the tight security separating the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem from the occupied city of Jerusalem.  Donkeys and people both were arrested!  We were initially some 150 strong and started from the Church of Nativity at 11:45 AM carrying palm leaves and banners asking for freedom of worship and movement (as demanded by international law).  The demonstration included individuals riding 2 donkeys and a horse.  Appropriate since Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.  Like him, we knew this was not going to be an easy entry but we did believe in the goodness of humanity.  We arrived at the main gate used for tourist buses at around 12:30 p.m. and decided to just keep going. The few soldiers and police at the gate tried to close it but we managed to get in and the huge 8 meter high metal gate stopped half way, perhaps as a safety mechanisms since there were dozens of people passing and they could be crushed if it continued.

The Israeli security forces tried to close other fences but we kept going.  As word reached their offices, the Israeli army was mobilizing its forces and soon several army jeeps arrived and blocked the road half way between the gate and Deir Mar Elias (the monastery at the edge of the city). They blocked our way.

Ibrahim Salah riding his donkey was speaking to them in Hebrew and saying why can’t we go to Jerusalem.  It is our right to travel.   He was the first to be violently knocked down off his donkey and arrested.  The next was an American girl, then some Palestinians. All were violently wrestled to the ground when even many were just peacefully walking back to the gates.  It seemed like a calculated move to punish some of us so that others get the message not to try this again.

Some 60 of us ended up being rounded up in between a wall, a hill, a gate, and a cordon of police officers.  We all expected to be arrested.  The occupation soldiers instead plucked random people that they thought were the key people.

We had significant local and national and international media coverage.  The people are willing to pay the price.  Israeli forces released 4 Israelis and the one American student.  They kept 11 Palestinians that they kidnapped and are charging them with “incitement”, “participating in an unauthorized demonstration” “entering ‘Israel’ without a permit “, and “interfering in police business”.

Oh and yes, a donkey and a horse belonging to Ibrahim were also arrested by the mighty army of apartheid Israel for they too need permits from the Israeli military to get in.

‘Lay Our Lives Like Palms Before Him’

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Andrew of Crete was archbishop at the end of the 7th century. Here’s a thought of his for Holy Week:

So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither; but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been  baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him.–St. Andrew of Crete