Palestinian Christians hold Holy Week protest on Jerusalem permits

(Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun)A Catholic worshipper holds a palm frond with a Palestinian flag during a Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem March 24, 2013.

Christians around the globe have started Holy Week ceremonies, but Palestinian worshippers are being turned away from the place of Jesus' crucifixion.

Whether it is Easter or Ramadan, Palestinian worshippers from the West Bank say they face stultifying challenges getting into Jerusalem for their holiest days including Palm Sunday on March 25.

Statements from the Palestinian Liberation Organization note that parishes from Bethlehem and Ramallah are reporting that they received only 30 to 40 percent of the requested permits to enter Jerusalem.

Several scout groups were thus unable to participate in Palm Sunday activities due to the shortage of permits.

"There should not even be a question of needing permits to visit one's own city," Christian Palestinian legislator and PLO official Hanan Ashrawi.

The permit shortage only compounds tensions over the Holy city, as West Bank leaders attempt to use the incident as more justification for East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state.

These events led some Christians to hold mocking and antagonistic signs of the Israeli permit policy during the Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem.

"East Jerusalem is the occupied capital of the Palestinian people and freedom of worship is a basic human right for all of our Christian and Muslim citizens; a right which is being systematically and increasingly denied by a foreign occupying force.

"The fact that so many Palestinian Christian communities are denied their simple human right to worship freely in their own capital city is unacceptable."

The controversy comes on the heels of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the area last week.

After meeting with Israeli leadership and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama visited the West Bank and made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

While in the West Bank, Obama urged Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to return to unconditional peace talks with Israel, though it is still unclear if the leader will do so.

While remaining unwavering in his support for Israel, Obama continued to stress the need for a Palestinian state.

"The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it," Obama said in a joint press conference with Abbas.

The Palm Sunday procession began at the Church of Bethphage a Franciscan located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

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