Tips for Thought

Jerusalem is an ancient Middle Eastern city that played a central role in the spiritual perspectives of three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For the three faiths, Jerusalem is a holy city, a pilgrimage center, and an object of devotion.

Celebrating Holy Week in Jerusalem is a dream come true for many Christians. As the pilgrimage center, expect the city to be filled with tourists.

Much like the Vatican, the city will have special celebrations during the Holy Week, starting on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Sunday. Here are some events you wouldn’t want to miss:

I. Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is on April 2. Devout believers will reenact Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem, where participants will gather at the Church of Bethpage and begin at 2:30 pm. Participants will sing hymns and bear palm fronds during this descent at the Mount of Olives.

II. Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday is on April 6, 2023. Visitors will see a reenactment of Christ washing his disciples’ feet.

Some events on this day include the following:

  • 8:00 am: A Pontifical mass and the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre;
  • 3:10 pm: Pilgrimage starting from St. Savior’s Church followed by service and the reenactment of the Washing of the Feet.
  • 9:00 pm: Holy Hour in various languages at the Garden of Gethsemane. Visitors can locate the garden on the Mount of Olives, where a private prayer follows this event in silence.

III. Good Friday

Good Friday is on April 7, 2023. The following are some events in the Holy Sepulchre:

  • 7:15 am: Celebration of Christ’s Passion
  • 12:15 pm: The Way of the Cross Procession at Via Dolorosa
  • 8:10 pm: The Funeral Procession in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre

For Protestants, a Good Friday meditative service is held in English at the Garden Tomb. Learn about its location and directions here.

IV. Holy Saturday

The day of Holy Saturday falls on April 8, 2023. Here are some of the events and places:

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre Events:

  • 6:30 am: Easter Vigil
  • 3:30 pm: Entry and solemn procession
  • 6:00 pm: Solemn Vespers at the Holy Tomb

Late Saturday Night: Holy Fire Ceremony. Thousands of believers wait for the miraculous lighting of the Patriarch’s candle from within the tomb. If you want to witness this event, please proceed cautiously, as crowds can be tight.

The Garden Tomb:

The Garden Tomb will hold a Resurrection Service, which will be conducted in Arabic. However, it may be accompanied by English translations.

In and around the old city:

Expect a parade of Armenian marching bands, including bagpipes and drums, where they will proceed with the Patriarch and priests to the Holy Sepulchre.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan holds an Easter sunrise service in English at 5:30 am in the outdoor chapel of Augusta Victoria Hospital. Visitors can find the event on the Lutheran World Federation Mount of Olives campus. Participants may donate 15 Israeli New Shekel after service.

V. Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday falls on April 9, 2023. Here are some key events to consider:

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

  • 10:00 am: Entrance of the Latin Patriarch
  • 10:30 am: Pontifical mass and procession
  • 5:00 pm: Daily Procession

The Garden Tomb:

Sunrise services in English and Resurrection services in English

Jerusalem Travel Tips:

As you can see, Holy Week is an extraordinary time in Jerusalem, with various religions coming together to celebrate Christ’s Passion in their ways.

However, before traveling to Jerusalem, it helps to do the following:

1. Dress modestly. If you plan to visit religious sites, be prepared to cover up. Women should bring a scarf or shawl to cover their hair, while men should wear traveling pants as shorts are prohibited. Avoid dressing in revealing clothes and wear clothes that cover your knees and elbows. If you plan to walk all day, wear comfortable shoes like sneakers or running shoes.

2. Learn a few survival phrases. Signs in Jerusalem are usually in three languages—Hebrew, English, and Arabic. However, there may be taxi drivers who speak Russian, shopkeepers who speak French, and a few expats speaking Spanish. Jerusalem is a top contender if you’re genuinely looking for a diverse city.

3. Arrive ahead. If you can make it before Holy Week, consider getting to know the area. There are various markets, restaurants, and points of interest for all travelers.

Takeaway: Spending Holy Week in Jerusalem is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, because of the multiple visitors from various religions, it helps to think ahead, pack smart, and take advantage of arriving early.

Outside of religious holidays, Jerusalem is still a beautiful city to visit, and you’ll surely want to return. Try visiting again during the off-peak season in winter (December to March) to explore the city at your own pace. However, remember to pack for the weather too.