Video: Bringing the Holy Fire of Easter through a military checkpoint

The Holy Fire ceremony is an ancient ritual observed by Orthodox Christians in Palestine, going back long before the establishment of the State of Israel.

On the day before Easter — known in Arabic as the Saturday of Light — a flame is brought from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to churches in other Palestinian cities where the Orthodox faith is practiced.

Israel prevents Palestinians from moving freely from the occupied West Bank to Jerusalem, and only a small number get a permit to travel to the Holy City to celebrate Easter. So the Holy Fire is transported through the Qalandiya military checkpoint and then on to Ramallah, where a boisterous large crowd awaits.

Scouts bang on drums and blow trumpets in a procession marking both the religious and national holiday. The faithful hold candles and rush to light them with the flame of the Holy Fire, which for them represents the light that emanated from the tomb of Jesus Christ before his resurrection.

The Holy Fire ceremony is observed every year in Jerusalem, a place holy to the three major monotheistic faiths. But Palestinian Muslims and Christians alike are prevented from freely practicing their long-held traditions there as Israel relentlessly erases their heritage from the city.

Claire Boubé is a French journalist currently based in occupied Palestine.

Linda Paganelli is a visual anthropologist based in Palestine.


Holy fire