Thousands of Christians from around the world have taken part in the traditional Good Friday Procession through the ancient streets of Old Jerusalem to follow the route believed to have been taken by Jesus as he carried his cross to his crucifixion. Some believers carried wooden crosses along the route, which has 14 "stations" and is known as the Way of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa.
The final few stations of Via Dolorosa are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Christians believe this is where Jesus was crucified and laid to rest before being resurrected on Easter Sunday – which is marked on 1 May in Orthodox churches. Both Protestant and Catholic believers follow the Way of the Cross.
The turnout was lower than usual this year as many pilgrims stay away over fears of violence between the region's Muslims and Jews. Overall the so-called Third Intifada has resulted in a drop of a quarter in the number of tourists who visited Israel in January 2016 compared to January 2014, according to the ministry of tourism. Only 15,000 attended the Palm Sunday procession this year, a drop of 10,000 on last year.
The ongoing security problems in Israel and Jerusalem in particular have also made it difficult for many Palestinian Christians to attend the Easter events. 1,500 Palestinians in Gaza and 50,000 in the West Bank are Christian but they need permits to enter Israel and checkpoints from the West Bank have been closed because of the Jewish festival of Purim.
However a relatively large number – 850 – of permits have been issued to allow Christian Gazans to enter Jerusalem this year and one believer, Karam Qubrosi, told Al-Monitor that being allowed to visit Jerusalem was a dream come true. The last time Israel allowed men under 35 to leave Gaza was in 2008, he said. "That was the last time I was able to travel to Jerusalem for Easter."