Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed by Christians to house Christ’s tomb, was shut Wednesday, as Israel tightened movement restrictions and the Palestinians announced their first novel coronavirus death.
The church, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, was closed shortly after 5 p.m. as Israel applied a series of new restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, including shutting down places of worship.
It was not immediately clear if the Western Wall plaza, the holiest place Jews can pray, would be similarly shuttered.
“We have been informed of the closure. Our understanding is that it is for one week. We hope (the church) will reopen as soon as possible,” said Wadie Abunassar, a spokesperson for the local clergy.
The church’s closure, a short time before Easter celebrations, comes days after Muslim authorities closed the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount, Islam’s third holiest site.
The new restrictions in Israel, announced in a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, prohibited leaving one’s home except to buy essentials, such as food and medicine, or to seek medical treatment.
“Individuals aged 60 and over, especially the elderly and at-risk groups, must remain at home and avoid risking themselves by going out,” the statement said.
Header: A worshipper prays in front of the closed entrance of the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem’s Old city due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, on March 25, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)