Pandemic tells on Al-Aqsa prayers
An imam standing atop an 18-foot pulpit in a near-empty Al-Aqsa Mosque delivered the first Friday prayers of Ramazan in Jerusalem, his voice echoing across an empty and windswept plateau almost devoid of worshippers.
In historic scenes rarely, if ever, witnessed at the third holiest site in Islam, below him kneeled only a handful of Muslim clerics in facemasks, staying several feet apart because of coronavirus restrictions.
“We ask God to have mercy on us and all of humanity and to save us from this lethal pandemic,” the imam said.
In normal years during Ramazan Friday prayers, Muslim worshippers gather by the tens of thousands on the tree-lined hilltop plateau that lies at the heart of Jerusalem's Old City and is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
But this year the 35-acre compound around Al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock was almost deserted.
Just 10 people -- the maximum allowed by Israeli authorities -- praying outside Lion’s Gate facing the Mount of Olives.