Easter crowds flock to Jerusalem after pandemic pause

Easter crowds flock to Jerusalem after pandemic pause
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Easter crowds are pouring into Jerusalem this weekend to commemorate the Christian holiday, just a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced in-person services and events to be canceled.

The New York Times reported that more than 1,000 people gathered for the Good Friday procession along the Via Dolorosa, the route that Christians believe Jesus carried his cross toward the location of his crucifixion. 

The annual event brought together crowds of believers, with police blocking off side streets as members of a Catholic youth group formed a ring around people carrying a large replica crucifix, the Times noted. 

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Videos posted on social media showed the crowds wearing face masks as they packed into narrow streets, reciting chants and songs as they walked to deliver the cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and ultimately resurrected from death. 

Rev. Amjad Sabbara, a Roman Catholic priest who helped lead the procession, told the Times that the fact that worshippers were able to commemorate the event in-person this year as the pandemic continues to ravage the globe “is like a miracle.” 

“We’re not doing this online. We’re seeing the people in front of us,” he said. 

Israel currently leads the world in coronavirus vaccine distribution efforts, with more than half of its population already fully-vaccinated, according to data compiled by the Times

Earlier this month, Pfizer, one of the manufactures of a leading COVID-19 vaccine, announced that based on Israeli data, its inoculation was highly effective against asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections. 

As a result of its rapid vaccine rollout, Israel has launched efforts to gradually reopen businesses and activities. 

On Tuesday, Israel reopened border crossings with Egypt for the first time since the pandemic began, with up to 300 Israeli citizens per day allowed to travel to and from the Sinai Peninsula for tourism, according to The Associated Press. 

In total, Israel has had more than 833,000 coronavirus infections, with at least 6,220 deaths due to the virus recorded, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.