Churches at Jesus’s Birth, Burial Sites Reopen after Pandemic Closures
The Church of the Nativity, located in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem’s Old City, both reopened their doors to the public on Tuesday following two months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Nativity church, on the traditional site where Jesus was born, is overseen by the Palestinian Authority, which, for the time being, is limiting entry to 50 people at a time. They are required to wear masks and undergo a check for fever. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where, according to believers, Jesus died and was buried before the resurrection. Overseen by several Christian denominations, visitors now have to pre-register before arriving. The church is the site of an annual Easter-season ritual called the “Holy Fire,” which sees thousands of the faithful crowd in to witness candles emerge from the spot where Jesus is believed to have been buried after they are kindled by a miraculously appearing column of light. This year, the ritual took place before just a handful of church figures and invited dignitaries.