Dozens of Egyptian Christians headed to Israel on Thursday on an Air Sinai flight to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem on 15 April. Seventy-three Egyptians were on the first flight of the day, while 62 more Copts left later in the afternoon. More pilgrims will head to Jerusalem on flights via Tel Aviv.
Security sources at the Cairo International Airport said Air Sinai planned to construct an air bridge between Cairo and Tel Aviv to accommodate the pilgrims with four flights per day.
The pilgrims included both Copts and Catholics. The late Pope Shenouda had previously banned Copts from visiting Jerusalem in protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
At least 4,000 pilgrims are expected to head from Egypt to Israel this year, marking a 40 percent increase from the Easter pilgrimage in 2012. Sources conjecture that the spike in travel is due to the fact that the newly instated Pope Tawadros has not formally issued a ban on traveling to Jerusalem, although many Coptic priests insist that Shenouda’s decree is still in effect.
Members of the Orthodox Church have warned that anyone violating Shenouda’s ruling would face religious punishments. Bishop Morqos of Shubra al-Kheima told Al-Masry Al-Youm that visiting Jerusalem is not mandatory according to the tenants of Christianity, and that whoever violated the Holy Synod’s decisions would face consequences.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm