JERUSALEM, Israel - The Holy Land’s most important sites to Christianity are reopening for the first time in weeks after being shut down to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be built over the site where Jesus was born, opened on Tuesday.
Entrance is limited to just 50 people at a time and visitors must wear masks, have no infection symptoms, maintain social distancing, and not touch anything in the church.
"All people can now enter the church and pray, as they want and just like before, not only the believers in Bethlehem but from all over the world. The church is open,” said Bishop Theophylactos, Greek Orthodox cleric.
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Just a few miles away in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre opened to visitors on Sunday.
The church is believed to be built on the site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected.
Like the Church of the Nativity, entrance is limited to just 50 people at a time and visitors are ordered to maintain social distancing and avoid touching items in the church. Typically, the church brings thousands of faithful worshippers who light candles, bow, kiss, and touch religious items.
The church was closed to visitors for two months, but clerics-maintained prayers privately inside.
Israel has gradually reopened schools, markets, gyms, places of worship, malls, beaches, and other entertainment centers.
Last week, some 5,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv for a beachfront concert. The ease in restrictions comes as the infection rate dwindles in Israel.
Israel reported more than 16,700 cases and some 200 deaths.
The Palestinian Authority has reported about 400 cases in the West Bank, with two deaths.