Holy sites across Jerusalem close for the holidays
Stephanie L. Freid

For the first time in 29 years Easter, Passover and Ramadan start in the same month.

For the first time in history, COVID-19 is casting its shadow over celebration of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy days.

Jerusalem's Old City is shut down. Access to Judaism's holiest site, the sole remaining wall of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE termed the "Western Wall" is blocked.

Islam's third holiest site Al Aqsa Mosque – the site Prophet Mohammed is believed to have been transported to in the middle of the night from Mecca's Great Mosque is closed to worshipers.

Locked mosque /CGTN

Locked mosque /CGTN

Doors to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – built over the spot Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected – are locked indefinitely for the first time in 700 years.

At a time of year the sites are usually teeming with tourists and pilgrims, the hallmark steep cobblestone streets of Jerusalem's Old City are deserted.

Tourism and revenue losses

Tens of thousands of tourists generally flock to Jerusalem for the holiday season but with the COVID-19 pandemic comes tremendous tourism industry revenue loss. The current estimate is hotel and tourist industry related businesses will suffer losses of more than a billion dollars.

Empty city /CGTN

Empty city /CGTN

The virtual solution

Religious leaders affiliated with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre say they'll conduct Easter Sunday rituals on behalf of all major denominations to be broadcast around the world.

Moslem leaders are taking a "wait and see" approach to Ramadan prayer services and broadcasts.

Essential shopkeepers in Jerusalem's Old City – food, produce and pharmaceutical shops serving the one km square city's population – told CGTN they prefer not to speculate about Ramadan business.

Western Wall /CGTN

Western Wall /CGTN

"We still have a few weeks. Maybe something will change," one shopkeeper said.

Ramadan is scheduled to begin on April 24.

The city's Jewish Quarter was a virtual ghost-town in the days leading up to the Passover holiday.

Israel's government clamped a lockdown and curfew on all residents prior to the Passover holiday to keep families from trying to gather for the holiday meal.