Salim Munayer, a resident of Jerusalem and regional Peace and Reconciliation Network coordinator, reflects on the 2023 procession.
The Palm Sunday walk from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem is annually one of the most joyful events in Jerusalem. It is an event my wife and I are excited to attend. Thousands of Christians from the land and pilgrims from around the world participate, ascending the Mount of Olives to descend into the city. Songs are sung in different languages.
Flags from around the world flap in the breeze. Many different cities in the land are represented. And, of course, palm and olive tree branches are lifted high as “Hosanna in the highest” rings, a joyful reenactment of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on a colt in the Gospels.
As a Christian Palestinian, I approached this year’s Palm Sunday with mixed feelings. Political unrest, renewed violence in the country including the killing of my people, and increased and unabashed attacks on Christians by militant Jewish groups, dampened my spirit. As a follower of Jesus, I am feeling unprotected and unwelcome in my own city.
Adding to my unrest, the night before Palm Sunday the Palestinian community was enraged when Israeli police shot a young Palestinian man who just graduated from medical school. Consequently, not only the safety of Palm Sunday worshippers – but how our joyful songs would be perceived by those mourning the loss of loved ones – weighed on my heart.
It was a morning of very mixed emotions and considerations, perhaps not unlike that first Palm Sunday when political and religious leaders watched Jesus of Nazareth ride into the City of Peace in a most humble and unexpected way in fulfilment of the Old Testament prophetic vision of Zechariah.
Our 2023 Palm Sunday procession descended the Mount of Olives. Initially, people were quiet; even tentative. But slowly the voices of praise rose and grew louder. Arriving at the court of the Church of Saint Anne in Jerusalem’s old city, I saw hundreds of young people singing, dancing and praising the Lord.
Older men and women joined, dancing with Palm branches. Immediately, as I watched in wonder, a thought came to mind, “You can kill the flesh, but you cannot kill the spirit.”
My part of the world is hurting and convulsing. The wider world is experiencing enormous political uncertainty, violence, and brokenness. I am one of the older ones wondering what will happen next. But here, on Palm Sunday, in my city that is mourning and on fire, the spirit, joy and expectation of the young is encouraging.
God is moving among the people. The young are crying out still so the stones don’t have to (Luke 19:40). Joy in difficult and oppressive situations is possible. The future will not be decided in halls of power but is in the hands of the Humble King to whom young, old, and the nations cry with joyful hope, “Hosanna! Save us now!”
Salim Munayer is PRN regional network coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. He is the founder and senior consultant of Musalaha and lives in Jerusalem. Blog posts in this series are coordinated by Phil Wagler, global director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Peace & Reconciliation Network and global liaison for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. The PRN can do its work through the generosity of donors like you. You can connect with the PRN or donate through The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada here. Photo from www.itraveljerusalem.com. Read more of these blog posts at FaithToday.ca/AllThingsReconciled.