Holy Week in the Holy Land: Three Calendars Collide
This week in the Holy Land, the three major faiths here—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—all celebrate a major holy event, a rare intersection of calendars that only happens about every 33 years. Passover, Easter, and Ramadan have intersected this year.
For the Jewish people—it is Passover. In Jewish homes across Israel and the world, tonight (Friday), we will gather with family (no restrictions this year due to COVID!) and eat a special meal and remember a time when the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob rescued our people from slavery and made us into who we are today—the nation of Israel. And our deliverance came through obedience to God's command to apply the blood of a lamb to the doorposts of the house. As Messianic Jews, we also remember the pure, spotless Lamb of God, Yeshua, who offered Himself as our sacrifice, once and for all, 2,000 years ago...and made deliverance from death into eternal life possible for everyone who believes, Jew and Gentile. His blood covers us.
Sadly, so many of my Jewish brothers and sisters—Yeshua's brothers and sisters! —do not yet SEE Him and recognize what He did. So many things in the Passover Seder (meal) point to Yeshua, but most Jewish people are blind to this reality.
In fact, there is actually a competition this time of year by one small, extremist Jewish group—Return to the Mount—to see if anyone can get a lamb or goat to the Temple Mount and sacrifice it.
They are so desperate to get right with God. Animal sacrifices won't do it! Yeshua is the way, and I long to see the day when their eyes will be opened, and they will see Him for who He is. The day is coming.
While they have attempted a Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount for many years, this year, Return to the Mount is actually offering cash prizes to anyone who tries, gets arrested trying, or happens to succeed.
"Arrested? NIS 400. Arrested with a goat/lamb? NIS 800. Managed to sacrifice? NIS 10,000," according to a Facebook post on Returning to the Mount's page.
Needless to say, this has infuriated the Palestinians—Hamas in particular—because this act would be near their holy sites—even though the area all technically belongs to Israel. Both the attempt by a tiny fringe group in Israel and the reaction from the Palestinian Islamists are rooted in misguided religious zealotry and not the love of God.
"We stress that this represents a dangerous escalation that crosses all red lines, as it is a direct assault on the belief and feelings of our people and our nation during this holy month," a statement by Hamas said.
Israeli police are working hard to keep the peace by preventing any infiltration of the Jewish group, especially this time of year.
For Muslims—it is Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and prayer…and more. This year, Ramadan and the days leading up to it have been the bloodiest in recent memory. So far, 14 people have been murdered, including an attack last weekend when three Israelis were gunned down in Tel Aviv, not far from where we live. There have also been nightly clashes between Palestinian Muslims and Israeli police in Jerusalem—unfortunately, this is not unusual during this month on the Islamic calendar. Tensions typically run high in this season—last year, it all culminated with the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas and the 4,000 or so rockets they rained on our nation.
For Christians, this week is the Easter season—from Palm Sunday to Easter, it is the most sacred time on the church calendar. The interesting thing about Easter in Israel is that unless you live in the old city of Jerusalem, you would have no idea. It is just another workday—the first day of the week.
Last Sunday, thousands of Christian pilgrims were back in Israel—after two years of COVID shutouts—to do the annual Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives past the Garden of Gethsemane into the Old City of Jerusalem. The walk commemorates Yeshua's triumphal entry into Jerusalem before His crucifixion. The procession culminated in a service at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the spots thought to be where Yeshua was crucified.
"After two years of Covid, of restrictions, of closed churches, today we are in a normal atmosphere," Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (the Catholic Church's head person in this part of the world), said. "We have a lot of pilgrims, a lot of local Christians. We are very happy. For us, it's a kind of resurrection."
Asher Intrater and others on our team will be participating in a Global Communion from Jerusalem with Watchmen for the Nations at Christ Church in the Old City.
(Click here for more info)