Palm Sunday: Palm Processional – Jerusalem

Palm Sunday commemorates Christ’s Triumphal entry into Jerusalem before Passover. According to the Gospels, Christ stayed in Bethany and Bethpage prior to Passover before entering Jerusalem riding on a colt. The people of Jerusalem laid out their cloaks, branches, and palms on the road before him. Today it is celebrated on the Sunday before Easter Sunday. Churches usually celebrate this day with palms and olives branches.

In Jerusalem a large processional begins from the Church of Palms (1-6) in Bethpage (pronounced Bet Fagie in Arabic), snakes over the Mount of Olives, down the Kidron Valley and into the Old City through the Lion’s Gate (22) ending at St. Anne’s Church (28 – commemorating the birthplace of the Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary) and the Pool of Bethesda (25-27 – where Christ heals a paralytic). Wanting to get the full experience, I decided to start at Bethany, make my way to Bethpage, and then walk in the processional into Jerusalem. As I mentioned in my post about Bethany, I was thwarted by the Separation Wall and had to make my way back to Jerusalem before going to Bethpage. On the bus I sat next to a Hungarian woman living in Sweden who turned out to be a radiologist. She told me she had walked the El Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) walking from France to Spain every year. She was on her way to completing the three major Christian pilgrimages, the other two being the Via Francigena to Rome and the last to Jerusalem. As we  got closer to Bethpage I could quickly feel the excitement.

The Palm Sunday Processional was amazing. There had to be thousands of people from all over the world waving palm leaves and singing and dancing in twenty or thirty languages. It was inhumanly crowded but it was great. Everyone, from priests to children danced in circles (11), played the drums (10), and led hymns or prayers. The processional was headed by Christian – Arab scouts? (8) and followed by churches and groups from everywhere. As we made our way up the Mount of Olives I noticed groups of locals came out to join in the celebration. Most sat up on the roofs or balconies, watching and waving (13, 15), but some took a more proactive role and sold water (3-4 shekels), palm leaves (10 shekels), and olives branches (3 shekels). I got an olive branch and stuck it out of my backpack (I probably would have taken a palm if I didn’t like my camera so much). We collective grew tired coming down the Mount of Olives and entering the Kidron Valley but hit our second winds once we passed Gethsemane (19), realizing how close we were to the Old City. When we entered the Lion’s Gate I stopped for lunch: a giant falafel ball stuffed with onions (23 – yes I’m basically Israeli now), bargaining it down from 10 to 5 shekels – very Israeli. The crowd stopped and gathered at the Pool of Bethesda and the procession ended. It was hot and crowded and amazing. And it was just the start…

~ by jonathanmtsai on April 20, 2011.

One Response to “Palm Sunday: Palm Processional – Jerusalem”


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