Not since the Black Plague have Jerusalem’s holy alleys fallen so still

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Adeeb Joudeh, standing in front of the now-locked Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City, had a pretty specific answer when asked when the church last closed to the public like this: “It was the year 1349, at the time of the Black Plague,” he said, holding the key that had shut things down a day earlier and back in the 14th century as well. They measure time differently here in the oldest section of one of the world’s oldest cities, the ancient, dispute-riddled and spiritually dense center of three major religions. Yet it takes an eternity to recall the last time Christians, Jews and Muslims, each claiming various overlapping quarters of the Old City, were kept from their eternal rounds. But coronavirus, like the medieval pandemic before it, has all but silenced this bustling Holy Land hot spot. The walls built by King Herod, the Crusaders and others (aided by the flashing lights of police cars at the gates) keep out the throngs of tourists and pilgrims who would normally teem through this UNESCO World Heritage site, especially in the weeks before Passover, Easter and Ramadan.


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