An Easter reflection from the Holy City of Jerusalem

“The Feast of All Feasts, the Season of All Seasons”

Jerusalem is the venerated city for the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. No one faith or people has an exclusive right to claim Jerusalem as theirs alone. It is the City of Peace. 

But peace is denied the people because there is no justice in the city. There is, instead, injustice and the targeting of Christian and Muslim Palestinians regarding our holy sites, our endowment properties, and our historic, deeply rooted presence in this holy place. We Palestinians think of Jerusalem as our capital. But we are treated as strangers in the holy city, the cradle of Christianity’s most important holy sites. 

Trump’s declaration naming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and his cutting of U.S. Aid to Palestinians exposed the unfair and arbitrary measures taken against our people over many decades, the consequences of which affect every aspect of our daily life. We do not know whether the new American president will reverse these unjust decisions, but it doesn’t seem promising. We should not be overly optimistic about drastic changes in U.S. positions under the new administration, both in relation to Jerusalem in particular and toward the Palestinian question in general. 

Apart from politics, I say from Jerusalem during this holy season of Easter: Jerusalem is the City of Resurrection for Palestinians, our treasured home. No place in our faith is more prominent or sacred than the city that embraces the Holy Tomb, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher—the site of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our Lord’s resurrection is a main pillar of our faith. We remember how our Lord carried His Cross and walked up to the Golgotha, where he was crucified and buried. Yet, he vanquished death and rose up from the dead on the third day. 

This is the feast that we celebrate. In our liturgy, we call it “the feast of all feasts, the season of all seasons.” On this glorious day, the most significant Christian celebration, we kneel before the empty tomb and hail our Lord who rose up from the dead. 

We pray to God that justice—so long missing—will prevail in our country, that the peace we so desire will prevail, that all injustices our people have suffered and continue to suffer will be lifted. 

Palestinians deserve freedom, deserve life. The vast majority are educated, have a high sense of belonging to our homeland, and have always been true defenders of our just cause, making major sacrifices to promote it. Our sacrifices will never go in vain, no matter how long it takes. 

Palestinian Christians from the Greek Orthodox Church chant and sing in the streets with candles and crosses during the Easter Holy Fire ritual in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 14, 2012. (Photo: Mahfouz Abu Turk/APA Images)

Our Easter message to Christians in our country and to our people in general is this: never lose hope regardless of the severity of hardships, conspiracies, suspicious plots and empty proposals aiming to liquidate our cause. 

Our Easter message is one of hope during difficult times, especially now under the pandemic conditions we are facing and despite all the injustice and degradation of human dignity to which our people are subjected. 

Inspired by the holy feast of resurrection, I tell Palestinians, “Fear not, never surrender, and refuse to be forced into frustration, desperation, and hopelessness. Keep up your morals high, your will strong, and love each other. Reject all divisions and be united in defending your cause, the cause of all free men and women in our world.” 

I greet all Christians celebrating Easter, saying, “This is the Day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

May we experience a new and renewed resurrection for this holy land and for all of humanity. We pray to God that the whole world will come together to fight the pandemic and then continue to be united in facing all the other pandemics in our universe—especially racism, hatred, injustice, occupation, oppression, and degradation of human dignity. 

Jesus has Risen. He is Risen!

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