Church Bells Toll in Jerusalem, Masses Sung for Easter With AM-Easter Rdp, Bjt
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Church bells tolled across the holy city of Jerusalem to ring in Easter Sunday for the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
Jerusalem’s old, walled city was crowded with foreign tourists, the heaviest turnout since the start of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation more than four years ago.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which marks the sites where tradition holds Jesus died and later rose from the dead, was packed for Mass.
Archbishop Michel Sabah, the Roman Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, asked for peace and justice in his Easter message.
″We call on God ... to lighten the minds and eyes of the rulers and the people on our holy lands so they are not afraid of equal justice, freedom and dignity for both people - Palestinians and Jews,″ he said.
In an indirect reference to the U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Arab peace talks, Sabah said: ″We pray to God that next year, peace and justice be will accomplished.″
The Palestinians oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and want to set up an independent homeland. The territories, home to 1.7 million Palestinians, were captured by Israel from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war.
The Arab states have called on Israel to trade land for peace, but the Israeli government has rejected this, saying the territories are part of biblical Israel.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry estimated that 70,000 foreign visitors came to celebrate Easter and Passover, the week-long commemoration of the flight of the ancient Israelites from Egypt. Passover began at sundown Friday.
On Sunday, many observant Jews went to the Old City’s Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, for prayers. The wall at the foot of the Temple Mount is a remnant of the ancient Jewish temple and is Judaism’s holiest site.
Israeli police said they expected about 200,000 Jewish and Christian pilgrims and holiday-makers in the walled city during the day.
Security patrols were increased, but there were no reports of incidents.
″The problem seems to be less one of security than of traffic,″ Israel radio said.