Passover crowds return to Jerusalem amid Israel vaccine launch

Jerusalem received an Easter miracle earlier this week: the revival of religious gatherings, thanks to an aggressive vaccination rollout that led to a sharp decline in COVID cases.

Thousands of people filled the streets on Good Friday in the Christian quarter of the Old City for the procession of the Via Crucis, where the faithful retrace the last steps of Jesus before his crucifixion.

Masked crowds were seen shoulder to shoulder as men carried a replica of the cross through the narrow corridors.

“We are more hopeful that things will get better,” said Apostolic Administrator Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa. “The Easter message is life and love, despite all the signs of death, crown, pandemic, whatever, we believe in the power of love and life.”

Passover church services were canceled last year in Jerusalem and in many parts of the world at the start of the pandemic.

A sense of normalcy has been restored in Israel, where more than half the population has been vaccinated.

Still, there are capacity restrictions for indoor Easter services, masks are required, and foreigners still need a special permit to enter the country, crippling tourism.

“It still seems like it’s not normal,” said Hagop Karakashian, the owner of a famous pottery shop in the Old City. “The locals can celebrate, yes. But something is still missing. “

With wire poles


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