Last updated: 1 April, 2012

Thousands mark Palm Sunday in Jerusalem

About 15,000 Catholics, including a large contingent from the occupied Palestinian territories, marked the traditional Palm Sunday procession from Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives to the Old City, police said.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmulik Ben Ruby said that about 15,000 pilgrims participated in the festive procession, some 5,000 more than last year.

Around 20 buses each carrying 50 devotees arrived from the Palestinian territories, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Xavier Abu Eid, told AFP.

“We tried to bring all those who had permits,” said Abu Eid.

Christian Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza need an entry permit, generally freely granted by the Israeli authorities, to attend religious festivals in Jerusalem.

Until recent years, the influx of Palestinian Christians had dropped dramatically because of restrictions imposed by Israel.

The colourful Palm Sunday procession saw pilgrims carrying palm fronds and olive branches heading from various parts of Jerusalem to the Church of St Anne in the Old City, via the Garden of Gethsemane.

For Christians, Palm Sunday commemorates Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, welcomed by crowds waving palm branches, before his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection.

Christians made up more than 18 percent of the population of the holy land in 1948, before Israel was created, but now they number less than two percent.