Easter celebrations began at dawn, as thousands of Christian worshippersconvergedon Jerusalem's holy places.
Pilgrimsfrom around the world have gathered for an Easter sunrise service here at the Garden tomb in Jerusalem. They are singing hymns of theresurrectionin a stunning atmosphere, the garden is said to resemble the place where Jesus was buried. Facing the empty tomb, worshippers declared, "The Lord is not here, he is risen!"
Easter mass was celebrated at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's walled Old City.
Priests and monks in white robes chanted theliturgy, as fragrant incense rose above the tomb where Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead.
It was the best turnout of pilgrims in years, a tangible result of the mideast cease-fire.
Dave Moody came from the Midwestern U.S. state of Illinois: "Where we've been, the people have been incredibly friendly, both Palestinian and Israeli, and I haven't experienced any fear."
Kathy Bridges of the U.S. state of Kansas said it was anopportunetime for apilgrimage.
"We felt comfortable with what existed here, as far as the safety of the Israeli army, the peace conditions. We feel that they're working towards a peace," said Ms. Bridges, and she was glad she came.
"I am thrilled, I am absolutely thrilled, it's a wonderful experience," she added.
Ms. Bridges said walking in the footsteps of Jesus renewed her faith.
"You can actually see the places where he walked, and understand the hills, the valleys, the locations, where they were [in relation] to each other, and it makes the whole Bible come alive," she said.
It was a peaceful Easter that gave a boost to Israel's battered tourism industry, and no one was happier thancash-strappedPalestinian shopkeepers in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.