Good Friday and the Passion Play

This past Friday was Good Friday for Catholics (Orthodox and Armenian Christians celebrate it in a week), and every year there is a Passion Play through the streets of Jerusalem, from the Lion’s Gate (next to the Garden of Gethsemane) to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, supposedly built on Golgotha, the hill upon which Jesus was crucified. A Passion Play (this was the first one I’ve ever seen) apparently consists of re-enacting Jesus’s walk along the Via Doloroso to the hill of Golgotha, where he was crucified, accompanied by Roman soldiers and a bevy of ‘women of Jerusalem’ who beg him not to go.


It’s a different person portraying Jesus every year, and I’m sure considered a huge honor to be chosen, but I was more than a little disappointed by the pasty and slightly pudgy American guy they chose this year.


2000 years ago, the city’s walls were in a different position, comprising mostly the modern-day neighborhood of Silwan (today outside the city walls), and Golgotha was a hill to the west of the city. The Roman emperor Hadrian expanded the city walls to include Golgotha, and so the Church of the Holy Sepulcher today sits inside the old city walls.


The actors in the play were surrounded by a dispatch of Israeli soldiers to keep onlookers back, and around the ring of soldiers was a ring of press photographers who were clamoring and pushing for the shot with the fewest other photographers, tourists, soldiers, and other distractions. In the old city’s narrow streets, the pushing got pretty intense. I thank Ed Ou for these photos. 


I can’t help but imagine that if this event were to go down today, it would look much the same, with the swarm of journalists and photographers hovering. “Controversial Rabbi Sentenced to Death in Jerusalem.”

~ by Josh on April 12, 2009.

2 Responses to “Good Friday and the Passion Play”

  1. Interesting post and viewpoint, particularly the question about how such an event would be treated today.

  2. Of course it’s intense: Especially when the play is being performed right by the areas where this crucifixion actually took place. It just goes to show that no matter of one is a believer or not, the events of that day ring true to those who are privy to see it.

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