Bethlehem, Jerusalem churches reopen to limited number of worshipers

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity opened to tourists and worshippers Tuesday for the first time since March.

al-monitor Women walk outside the Church of the Nativity as it reopens after Palestinians eased restrictions against the coronavirus disease in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 26, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma.

May 26, 2020

Churches in the Holy Land have opened their doors to worshippers for the first time in over two months, as Israeli and Palestinian authorities continue rolling back measures designed to curb the coronavirus.   

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem's Old City, will limit entry to 50 people at once. The church, which is identified as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, is barring worshippers from touching any of the stones or religious items. 

Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity is also limiting access to 50 people and requiring that all wear protective masks. Worshippers are not allowed to touch or kiss the grotto where it is believed Jesus was born. 

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced Monday that mosques, churches and businesses would reopen in the Palestinian territories. The major religious site in the West Bank city of Hebron, known as the Ibrahimi Mosque to Muslims and the Tomb of the Patriarchs to Jews, also opened its doors today. 

As of today, Palestinian health officials had recorded a total of 602 coronavirus cases and five deaths. In Israel, the government reported more than 16,000 infections and a death toll of 281.  

Worship is expected to resume at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque later this week, its governing council said in a statement. Islam’s third-holiest site closed in March for the first time in more than half a century. 

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