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Palestinian Christians celebrate Holy Saturday in West Bank, East Jerusalem

April 15, 2017 1:30 P.M. (Updated: April 16, 2017 11:04 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Christians from all church denominations along with international pilgrims marked Holy Saturday in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, a day before the Easter holiday.

The largest celebrations took place in the southern cities of the West Bank, most notably Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala, where a majority of Palestinian Christians live.

A large procession of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem also gathered to receive the holy fire at the Church of Holy Sepulcher in the Old City.

The celebration marks the day following Good Friday, when Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem, and the day before Easter, which marks his resurrection from the grave.

Palestinian Christians as well as Eastern Orthodox Christians from around the world believe that on the Saturday between these two holidays, a divine fire from heaven appears above his tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Believers hold that this fire ignites candles held by the Greek Orthodox patriarch, in an annual rite dating back to the 4th century that symbolizes the resurrection of Christ.

Every year, thousands gather in Jerusalem's Old City to welcome the fire, which is subsequently brought to churches in Palestinian towns and villages throughout the Holy Land.

Large numbers of Israeli police and forces were deployed in Jerusalem, particularly around the Church of Holy Sepulcher.

Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, Palestinian police were deployed in large numbers all over the city to organize traffic and help worshipers and marching bands reach the churches to receive the holy fire.

Representing a minority of the Palestinian population, Christians in Palestine are a prominent part of social and political life, and have positioned themselves in the center of the resistance against Israeli occupation and the construction of the separation wall.
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