Thousands of Orthodox Christians gathered in Jerusalem and Bethlehem Sunday to celebrate Easter or the Holy Pascha.

This year it is celebrated a week after Easter in the western churches and is calculated according to the Julian calendar.

The Orthodox believe Pascha to be the most ancient and vivid celebration of Christianity, with the services similar to the one held at the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem since the third century.

On the eve of Orthodox Easter, Christians gather in Jerusalem's ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the Holy Fire ceremony. They believe that the fire is sent from heaven to ignite candles held by the Greek Orthodox patriarch.

The centuries-old annual rite symbolises the resurrection of Jesus.

On Easter Sunday, familes and friends gather to celebrate Christ's victory over death. They begin their day by greeting a friend or relative by saying "Christos Aneste" meaning Christ has risen and the reply would be "Alethos Aneste" meaning "It is true, He has Risen." The family will break the fast and celebrate with flowers.

But this year Israel imposed restrictions on Christians celebrating Easter in Jerusalem.

"This past week has been a week of pain. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, we have witnessed the Israeli authorities restricting the movement of the population; closing Jerusalem's doors; and preventing movement, particularly to and from Jaffa Gate, where patriarchates and churches are located," Archbishop Atallah Hanna told the International Middle East Media Centre.

"Visitors to the Holy City during this sacred season, including local Christians celebrating their feasts, suffer due to these actions. The Israeli restrictions prevent many people from having access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and restrict the freedom of movement of Christian devotees - including clerics of all levels and ranks," he added.

Here are some pictures of Orthodox Easter.