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Israel

Jerusalem empty and masked in silence

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Walking down the alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian Quarters are so quiet, you can actually hear your own prayers.

You can almost hear the sounds of breathing from shop owners, some of whom have their doors open hoping for some desperately needed sales. Otherwise, many have shut their businesses because of COVID-19. Nobody knows when they will reopen for business.

At the Kotel, (Western Wall) the area in front of the wall that was once open and full of life is now a puzzle of blocked-off squares to allow a minyan of only 10 people to pray at a time.

Those praying are caged in, in the hope that their fellow worshippers will be wearing a mask. In and out they come, with someone shouting, “I need one more person to make the minyan!”

At the Al Aksa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, people are also praying, but without prayer blocks.

The usual vibrancy of Jerusalem has been subdued by masks and fear. There is hope that once the virus has been tamed, people will return to welcome the Sabbath, pilgrims will walk the Via Delarosa, remembering Jesus, and Muslims will return in their numbers for Friday prayers, bringing hope to the world.

And, once again, shop owners will be able to sell t-shirts saying, “I got stoned in Israel” and “Don’t worry America, Israel is behind you!”

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