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"Easter-Jews": A Dying Ritual in Lith...
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
09 Apr 2015

Holy Saturday in Pievėnai (Mažeikiai district municipality, Lithuania).

Every Easter, in the small Lithuanian village of Pievenai, a group of young men in uniform guard the local church to ensure their yearly procession goes undisturbed.  However, they are not guarding against street gangs or violent criminals, they are guardian against what they call the “Easter Jews”; a group of young local men wearing masks and clothes resembling visual stereotypes of orthodox Jews.

 

Both groups of young men are part of a dying Lithuanian Easter ritual in which the people in uniform prevent the so-called “Easter Jews” from breaking into the church, stealing the crucifix, distracting worshipers from god, and disturbing the resurrection of Christ.

 

On the eve of Easter, the guards begin their night watch, as the young men dressed up as “Easter Jews” begin trying to infiltrate the church and disrupt the evening mass. The guard’s night watch continues through the night until the last worshipers have left the church. The guards then go to rest in a nearby house where they play cards and drink beer.

The next morning, at the crack of dawn, a beating drum awakens the villagers and summons them to the morning mass. The guards return to the church, along with the “Easter Jews”. After the service is held, worshipers and guards begin a procession in which they walk around the church three times. As this is happening, the “Easter-Jews” run around the church in the opposite direction a total of nine times, with the intention of disrupting the procession and the resurrection of Christ.

 

There are four teams that dress up as soldiers and they all wear different colored uniforms. The red uniforms represent the blood of Christ, the green ones symbolize regeneration and hope, the blue ones symbolize the ascension of Jesus, and the white ones represent the sheet in which the body of the Christ was wrapped.

 

According to the local priest Saulius Styra the origin of the tradition is not known: "It is said that virtually all the churches had such soldiers before the [Second World] War." However, locals say that the Pievenai is the only village that still practices the tradition.

 

Most Lithuanians today are unaware of this outdated tradition. For many of those who are aware of it, they regard it as a relic of the past and an outdated remnant of old-world fascist mentalities. For them it is out of step with modern times.

 

However, those participating do not see it that way. For them it is simply a local tradition derived from the bible that is not meant to offend or demonize anyone. “Easter-Jews are tempting believers,” explains Priest Styra, “they are equated to devils. And this scenario is taken out of Jesus’ Crucifixion [from the Bible]. In the region where Jesus was crucified, everyone was Jewish, and I do not see any humiliation of Jewish people in this play”.

 

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Lithuania Easter 2
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

On Easter morning the commissionaire€“ reports to the priest that the cross was kept safe.

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Lithuania Easter 4
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

To show their hostility, the "Easter-Jews" frolick and run around the church in the opposite direction of the procession. The procession walks three times around the church while the "Easter-Jews" run around it reverse nine times.

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Lithuania Easter 5
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

An elderly woman at the Easter Mass gathering in Pievanai.

While the "Easter-Jews" ritual was commonplace in Lithuania before World War Two, it is now only held in the village of Pievanai.

Most of Lithaunia's once thriving Jewish population was exterminated during the Holocaust.

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Lithuania Easter 7
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

Villagers are summoned to morning Requiem Mass by a beating drum at the break of daw.

It is thought that the sound of the drum is the sound of joy. The sound also said to deter evil spirits who try to hinder the resurrection.

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Lithuania Easter 8
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

When there is no one left in the church, all the teams come back to the house: to sleep, to have a snack, or just relax. In the morning €“ before believers start to gather,€“ they are go on watch again.

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Lithuania Easter 15
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

An "Easter-Jew" sews mayhem in the church and tries to steal the cross.

"I think that the festival is a beautiful custom of the village," explains Jonas, the man behind the mask. "My grandfather, my father, and my brother all took part in it and that is why I am participating too. For four years I had acted as a soldier only this year I tried the role of a Jew. It is a pleasure to play the soldier’s role, but I enjoyed being a Jew much more."

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Lithuania Easter 11
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

The commissionaire, soldiers and "Easter-Jews" play cards together as they feast.

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Lithuania Easter 12
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

A soldier reacting quickly after hearing the color name of his team.

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Lithuania Easter 13
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

Soldiers keep watch over the cross, which is the centerpiece of the entire ritual. It is the goal of the soldiers to protect the cross from the "Easter Jews" who are trying to steal it.

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Lithuania Easter 14
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

The commissionaire, the leader of the soldiers, plays cards with team members.

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Lithuania Easter 16
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

All teams gather in the church at the start of the ritual to salute the cross.

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Lithuania Easter 17
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

The last smoke before the start of the ceremony.

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Lithuania Easter 18
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

Before and during the night watch, soldiers are take turns drinking beer from the same glass.

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Lithuania Easter 19
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

Before night watch youth gather in the house.

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Lithuania Easter 21
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

A member of the green team assists his teammate in getting dressed.

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Lithuania Easter 21
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

In the house closest to the church, the coats of the soldiers are hanged before the feast. The white team (the coat hanging above) did not participate this year.

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Palestinians Commemorate Land Day on ...
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
01 Apr 2015

Palestinians from across the West Bank and Israel gathered in confiscated Palestinian villages, on both side of the 1967 Greenline, to commemorate Land Day. Land Day is seen as a day of resistance action in defense of Palestinian land. Annual Land Day events are held by Palestinian communities within the State of Israel, in the occupied territories, and in the Palestinian diaspora.

 

Land Day events in 2015 included a 'return march' by the community-in-exile of Lifta, many of whom today remain only a kilometer or two from their original homes. Today there remains a small but very active community-in-exile of Lifta's refugees in East Jerusalem, and it was this group, under the banner of their community grassroots organisation 'Sons of Lifta' who spent Land Day inside their home village. Although many of the village's houses remain intact and the refugees live only a ten minute journey away, they are denied their rights to return to live in the vilage by the State of Israel.

 

Land day first started on March 30,1976, when mass demonstrations broke out among Palestinian communities in the State of Israel in protest at an Israeli state plan to confiscate 20,000 dunums (2,000 hectares) of land around the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin and Arraba in the Galilee. This was one of the first examples of mass coordinated action being carried out by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Protests were held from the Galilee in the north all the way to the Negev (known as the 'Naqab' to Palestinians) in the south. Over the course of the day 6 Palestinians were shot dead and more than 100 were injured. Ever since these events, Palestinians have commemorated March 30th as 'Land Day', or 'Yom al-Ard' in Arabic.

 

In Another Land Day event, activists in the village of Wadi Fukin in the West Bank attempted to plant 350 olive tree saplings on land that is threatened with expropriation by the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Sur Hadassah. All Israeli settlements within the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) are illegal under international law. Before more than a handful of trees could be planted in Wadi Fukin, Israeli soldiers rained clouds or tear gas on to the activists bringing the Land Day event to an abrupt halt. For Palestinians, Land Day is an important annual event which brings together many thousands of Palestinians across historic Palestine in the defence of Palestinian land.

 

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Bishwa Ijtema 09
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
26 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

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Bishwa Ijtema 10
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
24 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

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Bishwa Ijtema 08
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

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Bishwa Ijtema 06
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Pilgrims cook their evening meals on the grounds where the Ijtema is held. Thousands have come from all over Bangladesh to observe three days of religious teaching, prayer and meditation.

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Bishwa Ijtema 07
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Night falls in Tongi as Ijtema pilgrims meet one another after evening prayers.

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Bishwa Ijtema 02
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims entered the Ijtema grounds from different in Bangladesh on the first day of Bishwa Ijtema.

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Bishwa Ijtema 03
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Rapid Action Batallion (RAB) forces of Bangladesh monitor the scene of Ijtema from above to make sure everything goes smoothly.

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Bishwa Ijtema 04
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims perform their ablutions before the Ijtema prayers begin.

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Bishwa Ijtema 05
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims gather to attend Bishwa Ijtema in Dhaka on the first day of the congress.

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Bishwa Ijtema 01
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
16 Dec 2014

Mohammad Mojammel Hoque, 70, is a farmer from the Vola district of Bangladesh. "I come here every year to purify my soul and commune with Allah," he said. "From the scholars, I get to know the true teachings of Islam, so I can follow Islam properly and preach to others how to live the Islamic way.''

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Bishshow Iztema 2014
Dhaka, Bangladesh
By Khandaker Azizur Rahman
24 Jan 2014

The Bishwa Ijtema the World or Global Congregation or Meeting is an annual Tablighi Jamaat Islamic movement congregation held at Tongi, Bangladesh by the river Turag. It is the 2nd largest Muslim congregation in the world after the Hajj. The event focuses on prayers and supplication and does not allow political discussion.
The first meeting was reportedly held in 1946 (although various sources indicate other dates for this) and continues to be organized by the Bangladesh Tablighi Jamaat. It lasts three days and is attended by over five million Muslims, making it one of the largest congregations after the Hajj to Mecca and the gathering of Muslims in Karbala, Iraq to commemorate. Ijtema was initiated by an Indian savant named Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi and began as a small group of religious-minded individuals gathering at a local mosque. For forty-one years Tongi has been the chosen location, although similar programs are held on a lesser scale in other countries. The Ijtema is non-political, and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. Prayer is held for the spiritual adulation, exaltation and welfare of the Muslims community. This immensely popular program gives the people of Bangladesh an opportunity to interact with Muslims from other countries and is commonly attended by prominent political figures.
The congregation takes place at an area comprising 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land (0.25 square mile). Devotees from approximately 150 countries, including the host country, Bangladesh, attend the three-day Ijtema seeking divine blessings from Allah. In recent years, over seven thousands foreign delegates attend the congregation each year. Special rates are provided by Bangladesh Biman's world wonder fund.

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Bishshow Iztema 2014
Dhaka, Bangladesh
By Khandaker Azizur Rahman
24 Jan 2014

Bishshow Iztema 2014
The Bishwa Ijtema the World or Global Congregation or Meeting is an annual Tablighi Jamaat Islamic movement congregation held at Tongi, Bangladesh by the river Turag. It is the 2nd largest Muslim congregation in the world after the Hajj. The event focuses on prayers and supplication and does not allow political discussion.
The first meeting was reportedly held in 1946 (although various sources indicate other dates for this) and continues to be organized by the Bangladesh Tablighi Jamaat. It lasts three days and is attended by over five million Muslims, making it one of the largest congregations after the Hajj to Mecca and the gathering of Muslims in Karbala, Iraq to commemorate. Ijtema was initiated by an Indian savant named Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi and began as a small group of religious-minded individuals gathering at a local mosque. For forty-one years Tongi has been the chosen location, although similar programs are held on a lesser scale in other countries. The Ijtema is non-political, and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. Prayer is held for the spiritual adulation, exaltation and welfare of the Muslims community. This immensely popular program gives the people of Bangladesh an opportunity to interact with Muslims from other countries and is commonly attended by prominent political figures.
The congregation takes place at an area comprising 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land (0.25 square mile). Devotees from approximately 150 countries, including the host country, Bangladesh, attend the three-day Ijtema seeking divine blessings from Allah. In recent years, over seven thousands foreign delegates attend the congregation each year. Special rates are provided by Bangladesh Biman's world wonder fund.

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Gezi Gets Gassed -Black and White- (1...
Istanbul, Turkey
By umutvedat
19 Jun 2013

Fire and tear gas accumulated beside a barricade. Demonstrations took place beside Taksim Square as citizens protested against the government after a mall project that would take the place of Gezi Park was established. The protests were initially peaceful but ongoing violence has been taking place for over three weeks and continues to escalate in Istanbul, Turkey. June 2013.

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Gezi Gets Gassed -Black and White- (1...
Istanbul, Turkey
By umutvedat
19 Jun 2013

Civilians formed a human chain against violent attacks committed by the police. Demonstrations took place beside Taksim Square as citizens protested against the government after a mall project that would take the place of Gezi Park was established. The protests were initially peaceful but ongoing violence has been taking place for over three weeks and continues to escalate in Istanbul, Turkey. June 2013.

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Antigua, Guatemala Celebrates Semana ...
Antigua, Sacatepequez, Guatemala
By hiroko tanaka
29 Mar 2013

Anda returns to the church after hours of procession. During Semana Santa, a number of processions are carried out throughout the day.

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Antigua, Guatemala Celebrates Semana ...
Antigua, Sacatepequez, Guatemala
By hiroko tanaka
29 Mar 2013

People gather in Central Park to watch procession during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Antigua, Guatemala. Processions are carried out throughout the day.

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Istanbul Fashion Week 2013 (17 of 53)
Istanbul, Turkey
By Monique Jaques
13 Mar 2013

Attendees before the the Tuvanam show at Istanbul Fashion Week in Istanbul, Turkey.