April 22, 2024

Handful of Christians defy war for Easter services in Jerusalem, Gaza

A handful of Christians in Jerusalem and Gaza City defied the raging conflict in the war-torn region for Saturday night Easter services.

About 100 Palestinian Christians made their way to the Holy Family Church in Gaza City for a service there, while another small batch of worshipers gathered at the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem — one of the holiest of Christian shrines because it is believed to be the burial ground of Jesus, Agence France Presse reported Sunday.

The services — held a short drive from the ongoing battles between Hamas and Israeli forces — were a shadow of previous Easter celebrations.

Easter services in Gaza City.

Palestinian Christians gather at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City over Easter weekend as war rages nearby between Hamas and Israeli forces. REUTERS

Worshippers also gathered at the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem. AFP via Getty Images

“We were so few,” said Sister Angelica, who attended the Jerusalem Mass. “It breaks my heart. But we are like the first Christians. They were few, too.”

In past years, pilgrims would travel miles to prostrate themselves on the church’s marble stone of the Holy Sepulcher, or tomb, often waiting in long lines to worship.

Jerusalem is considered the holiest of cities by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

“Look how it is empty, even inside,” Sister Angelica said of this year’s services.

A woman named Kasia, who attended the Jerusalem church service with her mother, Ewa, both from Warsaw, Poland, said, “It is no wonder with the war.

“It is terrible.”

In Gaza City, the Holy Family Church is not far from Al-Shifa Hospital, the site of two weeks of recent ferocious fighting between Hamas terrorists and Israel Defense Forces.

Gaza has been buried in war since a surprise Hamas terror attack on Israel killed nearly 1,200 people, most of them civilians at kibbutzes on the border, on Oct. 7.

An ongoing retaliatory strike by Israel has left more than an estimated 30,000 dead in Gaza, many also civilians, so far.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa leads Mass at the Holy Sepulchre. REUTERS

Easter church services in Gaza City.

A handful of Palestinian Christians gathered for Easter services in Gaza City. AFP via Getty Images

A local shopkeeper called the war “a disaster,” saying it also has sapped his business during what was once one of his busiest periods of the entire year.

“The Holy City is so empty,” lamented small-business owner George Habib. “There is no one here. It is worse than COVID.

“It feels that this war is never going to end,” he said.

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