Tourist arrivals to Israel and the Palestinian Territories has declined significantly since the spring of 2014, nevertheless the Holy Land continues to be an extremely safe travel destinations with an abundance of fascinating historical and religious sites as well as offering diverse cultural experiences. With the holidays of Easter and Passover right around the corner, numerous festivities and experiences will be occurring and there is no better time than now to start planning what to do during the upcoming holidays.
Below you’ll find Travelujah’s top 10 ideas for Passover and Easter experiences you can only have on a Holy land tour.
1. Join the Palm Sunday and/or Good Friday Processions
Participate in the Palm Sunday and the Good Friday Processions. The Palm Sunday procession is held on Sunday March 29, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. and commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Approximately 5,000 to 10,000 people are expected to join this event. The procession is led by the Latin Patriarchate and begins at Bethphage and continues into the Old City entering through the St. Stephen’s Gate and ending at the Church of St. Anne.
The Good Friday procession (Via Crucis) is at 11:30 a.m. The Procession is led by the Franciscan Friars and begins at the First Station of the Cross in the Old City. The walk follows the path that Jesus took on the day of his death, known as the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. According to Father Juan Solana, the local representative of the Vatican,”Being a part of this very special procession,” says Father Juan, “is a unique experience for any Christian.”
2. Participate in a Passover Seder
Over the last several years more Christians are seeking to understand the roots of Christianity and one of the best ways to delve deeper is to study the Torah and celebrate a Passover seder. Unlike Easter which is celebrated by attending mass, the Passover Seder is a true family celebration. If you have an opportunity to attend a seder its can be a wonderfully meaningful experience.
3. Visit the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday or on Easter Sunday
Visit the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday. This shrine is where the last five Stations of the Cross are located. No Easter in the Holy Land is complete without exploring this historic shrine. The Good Fridan services: 8.00 a.m. – Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, Calvary. The doors will remain opened.4.00 p.m. – The Liturgy of the Hours. 8.10 p.m. – “Funeral” Procession.
On Easter Sunday the services are as follows
7:30 a.m. – Entry into the Basilica by the Latin Patriarch
8:00 a.m. – Solemn Mass of Resurrection and Procession around the Rotunda
5:00 p.m. – Daily Procession
4. Tour Mt. Zion
To have a truly authentic experience, visit the Upper Room located at Mount Zion and while you are there make sure you read about the resurrection in the Gospels. Jesus’s appearance to the Apostles occurred in the Upper Room. The Upper Room is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 pm. On Holy Thursday, April 2 – at 3:30 p.m. there is a Pilgrimage to the Cenacle and to the Church of St. James.
5. Attend “Resurrection Sunday” at the Garden Tomb
Easter Sunday also referred to as “Resurrection Sunday”, is a special day at the Garden Tomb and services are held at April 5 at 6:30 am and 9:30 in English, Scandanavian at 11 and Korean at 12. Moreover the Garden Tomb also holds its annual Arabic Easter event which coincides with Orthodox Easter and which brings together 500 to 600 Arab and Israeli believers. Seeing both Israelis and Palestinians together in prayer makes this an even more spiritually significant event. This event is scheduled for April 11 in the afternoon. Call 02-539-8100 for details.
6. Wake up early and attend Holy Fire Ceremony
The Holy Fire Ceremony is part of the Orthodox tradition and is a special festivity that only happens in Jerusalem, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. On April 11 Orthodox Christians gather very early in the morning at the Church of the Sepulchre for the annual Holy Fire Ceremony. This is the highlight of Orthodox Christmas when the spirit of Jesus fills the omb site of the Holy Sepulchre. A flame appears inside the tomb and is caught by the Greek Patriarh and an Armenian Orthodox priest and then shared with all the congregants holding candles.
7. Attend the Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall
On the third day of Passover, April 6, 2015 a special priestly blessing, known as the Bircat Cohanim is recited twice at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, first at 9 am during the morning service and again at 10 am during the Musaf service. You will hear the leader of the service reciting the blessing over the loudspeaker in order that everyone can follow and recite the blessing in unison. Our Travelujah tip: bring water!
8. Enjoy the Israel Museum for FREE on April 10, 2015
Celebrate Passover by enjoying free entrance to the Israel Museum on Friday April 10 only, from 10 am to 2 pm. The Israel Museum is kicking off its 50th anniversary celebration with a new exhibit that just opened, “6 Artists / 6 Projects.” As an FYI, Bank Hapoalim often sponsors free entrances to a number of museums all over the country during the intermediate days of Passover, April 5 – 9, 2015. Its worth checking Bank Hapoalim’s website as you get closer to the holiday to see if they will be offering something this year.
9. Dead Sea Music Festival – April 5 – 9, 2015
For the 19th year, Israelis and tourists from abroad will descend to the Dead Sea for this highly anticipated rock music festival where they will enjoy performances by top Israeli artists.
10. 8th Annual Stone in the Galilee Sculpting Symposium – Maalot-Tarshiha, April 5 – 8, 2015
This international stone sculpting festival is now in its 20th year and brings together many international artists as well as Israel’s most prominent sculptors creating art for public spaces. The festival includes dialogues as well as an indoor exhibition. Call 04-9578888
For further information on Passover and Easter in the Holy Land email firstname.lastname@example.org
Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah-Holy Land Tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land as well as the Co-Founder of Breaking Bread Journeys, a joint Israeli-Palestinian tourism project.