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‘This is Heartbreaking’: Jerusalem’s Holy Sites Deserted Weeks Before Passover, Easter

04-03-2020
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JERUSALEM, Israel – Iconic sites ranging from the Eiffel Tower to St. Peter’s square to Jerusalem’s Old City sit quietly as COVID-19 rages across the world.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is usually bustling with tourists and Christian pilgrims coming to see the place many believe is the site where Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead. 

The church looks much different now. It is empty and for the first time since the 14th Century, with a few exceptions, the church doors have been locked indefinitely.

“We’re used to having the church open.  We’re used to coming here every morning.  Spending all morning here praying.  Seeing believers.  This is heartbreaking; not being able to visit inside.  Just to come here and to see the doors closed,” George Manarious, Deacon of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre told CBN News.

Israel will allow the church to live-stream its global Easter service with a limited staff of no more than ten people.  

Meanwhile, just a ten-minute walk away is the Western Wall.

The holy site is usually filled with people praying but now, because of the coronavirus, only a limited number of men can come to pray and they have to be separated by at least six feet. 

“We are here before the Creator of the World … especially in this hour, that the Sovereign of the world will open the Gates of Heaven to our prayers, and send healing to all the sick in the world,” said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall.

The silence in Israel’s streets is occasionally broken by the sound of a shofar. It is a rare act. The blowing of the shofar during the month of Nissim is usually forbidden. 

“It's written in the Torah, that in the hour of war, blowing the shofars that The Holy One, Blessed is He, will hear our prayers,” explained Rabbi Rabinowitz.

Another casualty of COVID-19 in Jerusalem’s Old City is its alleys and shops, once filled with tourists and shoppers, now shuttered and empty.

“This situation affected us big time.  Our shops have been closed for the last 14 days,” said Zak Mishriky, a Christian shopkeeper in Jerusalem.

COVID-19 hit the Old City just before the holy week, the busiest time of the year.   

“Usually this place would be packed, you could not even put your feet,” Miskriky told CBN News.

Unlike many other shopkeepers in the Old City, Miskriky has a plan b, an online business called zaksjerusalemgifts.com.    

“Some gifts like anointing oil and prayers you know from Jerusalem because everybody wants Jerusalem and a touch from Jerusalem especially in these days,” said Miskriky.

Despite the devastating impact on the Old City, many here say the message from Jerusalem to the world remains the same. 

“From Jerusalem, if you come, His tomb is empty.  He was resurrected and this is our encouragement.  Things will be fine," said, Miskriky. 

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