PHOTOS: An Ethiopian Easter in Jerusalem

Aviram Valdman

Aviram Valdman

Photographer at The Tower Magazine

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~ Also by Aviram Valdman ~

From the Blog

One of the most unique branches of Christianity celebrates with special, ancient ceremonies in the Israeli capital. The Tower’s photographer takes us there.

While most people know about the over 120,000 Jews of Ethopian descent living in Israel today, less known is the much smaller Ethopian Christian community that sees Jerusalem as its sacred heart. Every spring, on the day before Easter, members of the Orthodox Church gather at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to witness the miracle of the Holy Fire. According to Orthodox belief, a blue light begins to shine from the stone lying across the site where Jesus was buried and then rose from the dead. The light grows stronger and more powerful, and spontaneously lights the candles carried by onlookers. Dating as far back as the 2nd century, it is one of the most revered miracles in Orthodox Christianity, and pilgrims arrive from around the world to witness the ceremony.

Among them are members of one of the oldest and most unique congregations in Christianity: The Ethiopian Orthodox Church. With a theology, rituals, and biblical canon entirely their own, Ethiopian Christians take pride in their ancient heritage, and regularly make the long trip to witness the Holy Fire each year. Exercising authority over the roof of the Holy Sepulcher, the pilgrims and their clerics gather to celebrate the miracle by lighting candles and dancing to rhythmic drumming.

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Banner Photo: Aviram Valdman / The Tower