Jerusalem, April 5 — The Jewish holiday of Passover this year begins on Friday evening (April 6). That’s the same day as the Christian celebration of Good Friday; Easter occurs on Sunday and follows the final day of the Christian Holy Week.
Passover is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar and begins with a festive meal, the seder, on the eve of the first night of the holiday when the biblical account of the Israelites’ release from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel, is recounted. Throughout the holiday, Jews eat unleavened bread, or matzah, to recall what the Bible says the Israelites ate when they escaped captivity in Egypt.
Passover lasts eight days outside of Israel, and seven days in Israel.
During Holy Week, which began with Palm Sunday on April 1, adherents recall Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, his crucifixion and resurrection. In Jerusalem, pilgrims participate in traditional processions along the Via Dolorosa leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe Jesus was buried.
As part of its recently launched “faith tourism” program, the Israel Tourism Ministry is promoting a hiking trip along the Gospel Trail, also known as the Jesus Trail. The 40-mile (65 km) trail in the Galilee connects sites from the life of Jesus and other historical and religious sites, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Christians, along with adherents of all other faiths, enjoy freedom of religion in Israel. Israel is one of the only places in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing. In 1949, there were 34,000 Christiansliving in Israel, while today they number about 150,000.
Security in Israel and elsewhere in the world is typically increased around Passover, as terrorists and enemy countries have taken advantage of Jewish holidays to commit attacks against Jews and Israel. In March 2002, for example, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 40 people and injured 140 others as they ate Passover dinner at a hotel in the seaside city of Netanya. Iran-backed Hamas took responsibility for the attack.