What You Missed in Jerusalem during Christianity's Holiest Week

Apr 09, 2010
*Special to asia!

Stonings and a real-life resurrection of the dead. The Holy Land doesn't disappoint on Holy Week.

Every year, Christians all over the world celebrate Easter Sunday, marking the end of the Christian Holy Week and the resurrection of Jesus Christ who was crucified on Good Friday.

This year, someone else was brought back to life from the dead : Muhammad al-Farmawi.

On the Tuesday before Good Friday, the 15-year-old Palestinian boy was reportedly shot by Israeli forces during demonstrations in Gaza. According to local Palestinian media, the violence was so heavy the ambulances could not approach to retrieve the body.

The Israeli army denied opening fire on the Palestinians there, but nonetheless, the killing got picked up by various international media. The New York Times for example, told of how the youth's father kept vigil outside the hospital entrance for the next four days. He was “looking inside every arriving ambulance for his son”.

Then Good Friday came, and it was possibly the best one ever for the al-Farmawis.

Their dead son turned up alive.

As it emerged, he wasn't shot by Israeli soldiers as much as he was held in an Egyptian prison for three days.

Muhammad and a few friends had been collecting stones in the area where he was last seen. They heard gunfire and took refuge in a nearby tunnel. By the time they came out on the other side, they found themselves over Egypt and arrested by border guards there.

In an an interview to the Jerusalem Post, Muhammad was quoted as saying he was beaten with “clubs and electric wires” and fed rotten food. Three days later, he was returned to Gaza.

There, they had been lauding him as a martyr, killed by the Israelis. He didn't quite make martyrdom in the end it seems. Still it was a miracle worthy of Holy Week. 

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, thus named for when Christ rode into Jerusalem before his crucifixion on a donkey, welcomed by adoring crowds waving palm leaves. For those trying to re-enact his entry into town these days, the reception was nowhere as warm.

Israel requires Palestinian Christians to get a permit to enter Jerusalem which lies in its territory, and on Holy Week, a set 10,000 of them are given.

Accompanied by left-wing activists, a group of these Christians did a customary march to Jerusalem from Bethlehem in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank. Midway, they came up against an Israeli checkpoint. Normally they would have to stop for checks by the Israeli soldiers, but this time they didn't, as a sign of protest.

When the marchers didn't stop, the inevitable happened. They got arrested.

Like Jesus they ended up spending a bit of their Holy Week in a Jerusalem jail cell.

For a lot of the faithful, Holy Week involves going through what Christ did. Some will carry the cross. Others literally nail themselves to one.

In East Jerusalem, a group of visiting Christians found extremist Jews hurling stones at them in a East Jerusalem neighbourhood. They had taken over this predominantly-Arab area from the Palestinians that live there, and outsiders were not welcome.

This is Jerusalem, the most contended of cities, even during high festivals of faith.

Two thousand years ago, its Jews like Christ lived oppressed under the Roman Empire. Today, the ruled have become the ruler. It is the Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation.

This is Jerusalem, the most contended of cities, where a sense of persecution remains.

Welcome to Holy Week in JudeoChristendom's holiest city.


dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi