Worshippers throng to Jerusalem for Palm Sunday

JERUSALEM — Hundreds of Christians marked Palm Sunday in the Holy Land, the start of the Catholic Holy Week that concludes with Easter.

Crowds of faithful gathered at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Many waved palm fronds to symbolize how worshippers greeted Jesus over 2,000 years ago as he triumphantly returned to Jerusalem.

Mostly Palestinian worshippers gathered in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, traditional site of Jesus’ birth, clutching olive branches and bouquets as they sung in praise. The Biblical city of Bethlehem is in the West Bank, a territory east of Israel that Palestinians seek for their future state. Israel retains military control there but Palestinians have a measure of self-rule over their own communities, including Bethlehem.

There are some 50,000 Palestinian Christians, a tiny minority among a mostly Muslim society. They must obtain military permission to enter Jerusalem to participate in religious ceremonies.

In a statement sent to reporters, Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said some 60 percent of Christian applicants in Bethlehem and the Palestinian West Bank town of Ramallah had their requests rejected. But military spokesman Guy Inbar said they had issued nearly 20,000 permits so far, and only rejected the applications of 190 Palestinians.

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