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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed by pilgrims to be the site of Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem's Old City, closed its doors for the first time since the Black Plague, according to the keeper of the keys to the now-locked church.
"To see the holy church closed is very, very, very sad for me," Adeeb Joudeh told the Washington Post after he got the order from Israeli health officials on March 25. "All the churches, the mosques, the synagogues in Jerusalem are closed, but we understand the situation. We are all of us praying."
Joudeh, who is Muslim, is part of the family line going back eight centuries entrusted with the keys to the church.
Tradition states that two non-Christian families were given custody of the key and another the task of unlocking the doors and sealing them shut each evening, because of denominational infighting, something common within the Holy Land sites over the years, according to the Post.
Typically, tourists and pilgrims are flooding in and out of the holy site, but now the UNESCO World Heritage site is eerily silent, especially in the days leading up to Passover, Easter, and Ramadan.
But religious leaders in the area are still praying at the doors of the Holy Sepulchre.
The closure comes after the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, was shut down and amid the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jews to pray, remained open but only to residents of the Old City.
“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,” Wadie Abunassar, a spokesperson for the local clergy, told the Times of Israel.
Israel has confirmed over 4,300 cases with at least 16 deaths as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going into self-quarantine after an aide tested positive, his office confirmed Monday to Fox News.