JERUSALEM — The cobblestone alleyways of Jerusalem's Old City became moving forests of wooden crosses as Christian pilgrims and clergymen commemorated the day of Jesus' crucifixion, Good Friday.
Black-robed nuns filed past metal barriers erected by police as dozens of tourists in matching red baseball hats held up digital cameras. Some pilgrims carried elaborately carved crucifixes, while others had crude crosses made of two planks held together with tape.
Good Friday rituals center on the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christian tradition says Jesus was crucified and buried before his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
While Catholics and Orthodox Christians follow different calendars, this year their Easters coincide and the churches are commemorating Good Friday together.
Watching as hundreds pressed through the narrow Jerusalem street called the Via Dolorosa – the "Way of Suffering," tracing Jesus' final steps – was Katy Fitzpatrick, 24, Spokane, Washington. She said the event was both "exciting" and "a little overwhelming."
"It's a little intimidating, and the riot gear is a little intimidating too," she said of the heavy presence of green-clad Israeli police deployed to keep the peace.
Around midday, an American church group performed a reenactment of Jesus' walk to his crucifixion – including an actor who played Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns and carrying a heavy cross, who was led by other actors dressed as Roman legionnaires.
Amalia Daskalaki, 71, from the Greek island of Crete, said this was her third visit to Jerusalem for Good Friday and that she was moved each time. "It's so nice. I like to cry all the time," she said.
Amid the crush of Christians from all over the world, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man in black tried to make his way along the crowded street by pressing against one of the walls. Jews are currently celebrating the weeklong spring holiday of Passover, and thousands of Jewish pilgrims and tourists were also in the Old City.
In addition, Muslims were holding weekly Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque, located in a compound they call the Noble Sanctuary and Jews call the Temple Mount. The disputed compound has been the scene of recent clashes between Muslims and Israeli police.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said around 2,500 policemen had spread out in and around the Old City to enable all three faiths to observe their rituals. No disturbances were reported Friday.