Thousands of pilgrims and locals are expected to converge on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for the annual Holy Fire ceremony, which will take place this year on Saturday 14th April. Some 125,000 pilgrims and visitors are expected to visit Israel from around the world to celebrate Easter, including pilgrims from the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Orthodox Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected at the site where the church now stands, and that a flame appears spontaneously from his tomb on the day before Easter to show he has not forgotten his followers. The Holy Fire is described by Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, or Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter. It is considered by many to be the longest-attested annual miracle in the Christian world. The ceremony is broadcast live in Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Lebanon and other Orthodox countries like Egypt. Furthermore, the Holy Fire is brought to certain Orthodox countries, such as in Russia, Belarus, Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, Montenegro, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Armenia, every year by special flights, being received with honors by state leaders at the respective airports.
Entrance to the Old City and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher:
The following arrangements are in place for those wishing to participate in this spiritual highlight of Holy Week. On Saturday, 14/4/2012 during the celebration of the Holy Fire, all the roads leading to the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher will be closed except for Jaffa Gate. The Police will regulate the entrance and roads in the area and will allow the approved number of visitors only.
Representatives of the Ministry of Tourism will be happy to assist in providing information, lists of licensed tour guides and advice free of charge at the Jaffa Gate Tourism Office. The office hours of operation are: Sunday through Thursday and Saturday from 8:30 until 17:00. Friday hours of operation are from 8:30 until 13:30. Telephone: +972 (0)2 6271422.
Means of arrival to the Old City on Saturday:
1. Independently, visitors can arrive by foot.
2. Taxis and private cars can arrive at the Jaffa Gate junction only.
Public Transportation which operates on Saturdays:
1. The East Jerusalem public bus company operates line 21 and line 124 between Bethlehem and Damascus Gate (buses stop at Jaffa Gate).
2. Egged Bus Company does not operate on Saturdays.