The Feasts of Jerusalem
A loud cannon fire in the middle of the night heralds the beginning of the holy month for Muslims around the world: Ramadan. According to this year’s lunar calendar, the month of fasting and charity began at dawn on March 23 and will end on Friday, April 21. Cannon firing, which is actually a stun grenade, has been an unbroken tradition for more than 120 years. Every day of Ramadan, at four o’clock in the morning and about seven in the evening, the Muslim Rajai Sandouka has the task of announcing the beginning and end of the fast in Jerusalem.
The Ramadan of Muslims
Once the fast is broken, the Holy City comes alive with men, women and children in celebration accompanied by music, dances, decorations and lots of food that they share on every street corner. But this month of April 2023 is not only holy for the faithful of Islam. The peculiarity of this year, in fact, is that the days of Christian Easter, Jewish Easter and Ramadan of Muslims coincide.
Muezzin and bells alternate in a dance that marks the rhythm of the city and its inhabitants. All the neighborhoods of Jerusalem are festively decorated, despite, as unfortunately was widely expected, an escalation of tension and violence has returned to hurt the city precisely during the coincidence of the celebrations.
Last Wednesday, when the Franciscan friars were in procession from the Basilica of the Agony to that of the Holy Sepulchre, Jews started Pesach, while Israeli soldiers beat and arrested hundreds of Muslims praying at al-Aqsa Mosque in the middle of Ramadan.
“Observe the feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I have brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; you will observe this day from generation to generation as an everlasting rite” (Ex 12:17).
Pesach is “Unleavened Bread Week,” one of the main Jewish holidays. These days Jews celebrate deliverance from slavery in Egypt, as narrated in the book of Exodus, and follow special norms. One of them is the prohibition to eat anything leavened. The mazzot, the unleavened bread is therefore consumed both in homes and in restaurants. Even the shops must remain kosher le-Pessach , “pure for Easter” and hide or remove from the shelves all kinds of yeast, even beer. On Wednesday evening, after sunset, Jewish families eat the ritual dinner, the Seder made of unleavened bread and maror, a bitter herb and for the first two days of Pesach no faithful work.
During the days of the holiday of Pesach, which ends on Thursday, April 13, Jews increase their prayers especially at the Wailing Wall.
As narrated in the Gospels, Christ also participated in the Passover and ate dinner with his friends in Jerusalem. But he gave it a new meaning, which we relived precisely in the Upper Room on Thursday morning and which will culminate on Easter Sunday.
The celebrations for Catholic Christians began last Sunday, Palm Sunday, which saw the festive participation of tens of thousands of pilgrims and faithful from all over the world.
Seven days after Easter celebrated by Catholics, Christian holidays are not yet over. The eyes are fixed on the Holy Sepulchre for the Passover of the many Orthodox who follow the Julian calendar. The most awaited moment is their Holy Saturday, when thousands of Greek, Armenian, Coptic and many other Christians await the fulfillment of the miracle of the Holy Fire of which we have spoken in this article .
In the rich variety of confessions, rites and traditions of these days, during the procession of Palm Sunday S.B. mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Patriarch of the Latins, reminded us that “we are gathered here without nationality, or citizenship: we are simply united in the name of Jesus Christ”. The Resurrection of the Saviour is the heart and pillar of Christians all over the world and here in Jerusalem the Christian quarter resounds in these days the Arab cry “Al-Masih qam”, which means “Christ is risen” and to which adults and children respond “Haqqan qam“, “He is truly risen!”