March 31st, 2012

Indian Community in Israel celebrated the PALM SATURDAY today at Bethphage, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. It was a colourful and a joyful a spectacular demonstration of their faith in Jesus Christ acknowledging him as their Saviour and the Lord and King of the universe and their lives. They were very proud to rejoice and to recall and to re-enact the Gospel event that took place at very spot in that village called Bethpage on the Mount of Olives two thousand years ago. As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Pascua , he entered this village which is in between Bethany and the Mount of Olives, at the side of the city of Jerusalem, he sat on a donkey and the people of the village run out to spread their cloaks and Olive branches on the road shouting "Hosanna to son of David", "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" etc.(Mark11:1-10). As the they were celebrating this important historical event at the beginning of the Holy Week, the Indian Community experienced themselves as the New Israel who came to thank God for Jesus of Nazareth and to celebrate his kingship all over the universe.

The Palms & Olive leaves were blessed by His Paternity V. Rev. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa ofm, The Custos of the Holy Land. After Reading the Gospel, he preached a brief homely, in that he appreciated the valuable Christian presence of Indian Community in the Holy Land and he pointed out the great pre-village and god-given opportunities of this Community to celebrate the this feast of the Palm Sunday, and other feasts and the events of the Gospel on the very spot it all occurred at the time of Jesus. His Paternity urged them to be a Model Community of Faith-living Community for other Christian communities who live in the Holy Land and encouraged their evangelical Christian presence among the brothers and sisters of other faiths in the state of Israel.

The procession of nearly a thousand Indians of men and women and little infants with their young mothers, went through the streets of Mount of olives to Gethsemane in the traditional routes of the Palm Sunday, singing hymns in Konkani, Kanada, Malayalam and English and shouting "Hosanna" etc., When they reached the Basilica of Agony (also known as the Basilica of All Nations) at Gethsemane, they stood on the steps of Basilica facing the Golden Gate of old City of Jerusalem, through which the Messiah (Jesus) entered the City of Jerusalem, they sang hymns of praise and thanks giving in a loud voice at times shouting "Hosanna in the Highest". They all entered the Basilica to celebrate the Holy Eucharist of the Passion Sunday. The Holy Mass was presided over by Rev.Fr.Praveen H. D'souza OFM, the Assistant pastor of the Indian Chaplaincy and a Student at the Franciscan Biblical Institute in Jerusalem, and concelebrated by Guest Priest Rev.Fr.Vinod Wilfred Mascarenhas OFM Cap. The director of the Social Welfare Centre of Capuchins in Mangalore.

The Indian Chaplaincy which cares for the Pastoral needs of the Indian Community in the Holy Land organized this procession on Palm Saturday as vast majority of its members are migrant-workers in Israel and get their week off only on Sabbath (Saturday-Day of Rest) Thus these migrant Christian community opens up a new reality of Pastoral Care and dimensions of Christian presence in the Holy Land.

Text by Fr.Jayaseelan OFM
Photos by Jossy and Jessy Pinto