A man walks with his dog in Jerusalem's Old City. Picture: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit.
A man walks with his dog in Jerusalem's Old City. Picture: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit.

Pandemic brings dark times to Jerusalem's Old City

By Reuters Time of article published Dec 1, 2020

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As night grips Jerusalem's walled Old City, its ancient alleyways become a ghost town of haunting shadows and light.

Mornings used to reveal bright picture-postcard scenes of tourists from around the world stopping to buy souvenirs at Palestinian shops as they made their way to biblical sites holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

But a modern-day plague, the coronavirus pandemic, is now keeping the visitors away from the Old City and bringing hardship and heartbreak to residents.

"In previous years, the city used to be filled with tourists during Christmas time. But now, at around 5pm it becomes empty," said Hisham Qweder, 40, a computer technician.

The light from a juice bar, still open at night, is a beacon to customers along a virtually deserted pathway.

Before the pandemic struck, overseas tourism had been booming in Jerusalem, whose Old City was captured by Israel in a1967 war.

Surrounded by ancient walls, the Old City is home to holy sites such as the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which dates to the 4th century.

According to touristisrael.com, the Old City is divided into four quarters; The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and The Muslim Quarter, and can be entered by one of seven entry gates.

Khaled Salfiti, a 70-year-old souvenir shop owner, recalls how the Old City used to be "vibrant and alive" before a series of coronavirus lockdowns.

"Corona paralysed everything," he lamented.

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