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Photos: Jerusalem's sacred crossroads endures in a time of war

Christians hold a candlelight procession in Jerusalem outside the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of Gethsemane, on March 28. This year, Easter, Purim and Ramadan overlapped for the first time in three decades.
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Christians hold a candlelight procession in Jerusalem outside the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of Gethsemane, on March 28. This year, Easter, Purim and Ramadan overlapped for the first time in three decades.

JERUSALEM — Jewish revelers in a Purim parade pass protesters holding placards marking the days since hostages from Israel have been held by Hamas. Outside the church of Gethsemane, Christians clutching candles march after Mass on Maundy Thursday. At Damascus Gate, tens of thousands of Muslims step down stone slopes, carefully watched by Israeli security forces.

It is in Jerusalem where the ancient Jewish Temples stood, and billions of faithful believe Jesus was resurrected and the Prophet Muhammad ascended into paradise.

Amid the war in Gaza and tensions over access to major holy sites, this complex, ancient and diverse city that's central to Judaism, Islam and Christianity has remained largely peaceful.

"The present-day city contains so many religions, ethnic groups, ideologies, national identities ... all rubbing up against each other, but all very separate," says Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, a former president of Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli organization. "Jerusalem holds out the promise of peace, of a shared space. I believe that God has called on all Jews, Christians and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis ... to find a way to live together and share this holy city."

Over the centuries, Jerusalem has withstood invasions, sieges, attacks, division, reunification — and despite ongoing tensions, it endures as a city where people are able to practice and express their different and deeply held faiths, while adhering to strict rules and restrictions imposed on worship in this shared space.

This spring, for the first time in three decades, Ramadan, Easter and Purim — holidays in Islam, Christianity and Judaism — all overlapped within a month-long period. With war raging in Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, fresh restrictions on Palestinians' access to holy sites, and powerful challenges to longstanding rules about Jewish prayer at the Al-Aqsa compound, there were fears that tensions might flare uncontrollably and ignite violence in Jerusalem.

But the holidays passed with few incidents. Here are images showing the city during a holy month, and some of the people living, visiting and worshiping there.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Orthodox Jews pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 25.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Orthodox Jews pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 25.
Demonstrators hold signs urging the government to reach a deal for release of hostages taken from Israel by Hamas-led militants on Oct. 7, as they and Israeli security forces watch a parade through Jerusalem for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Despite the war in Gaza, the city hosted an official Purim parade for the first time in more than 40 years, among muted crowds and protesters.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Demonstrators hold signs urging the government to reach a deal for release of hostages taken from Israel by Hamas-led militants on Oct. 7, as they and Israeli security forces watch a parade through Jerusalem for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Despite the war in Gaza, the city hosted an official Purim parade for the first time in more than 40 years, among muted crowds and protesters.
A float in a Purim parade in Jerusalem, March 25.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
A float in a Purim parade in Jerusalem, March 25.
Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman stands outside his synagogue in West Jerusalem on March 6. "No one religious tradition has a monopoly on truth. Every religious tradition has, at its core, a vision of peace for all humanity," Weiman-Kelman says. "We need each other to find a way to live together. Sadly, since Oct. 7, this dream feels further away than ever."
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman stands outside his synagogue in West Jerusalem on March 6. "No one religious tradition has a monopoly on truth. Every religious tradition has, at its core, a vision of peace for all humanity," Weiman-Kelman says. "We need each other to find a way to live together. Sadly, since Oct. 7, this dream feels further away than ever."
Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives.
The Dome of the Rock on the Al-Aqsa compound before Friday prayers during Ramadan in Jerusalem, March 22. It is a sacred site in Islam where the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended into paradise.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
The Dome of the Rock on the Al-Aqsa compound before Friday prayers during Ramadan in Jerusalem, March 22. It is a sacred site in Islam where the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended into paradise.
Israeli security forces in the Old City of Jerusalem before Friday prayers during Ramadan, March 22. Israel has long ensured Al-Aqsa Mosque remains a Muslim place of worship, with Jews allowed to pray at the Western Wall. But Israel's far-right national security minister urged religious Jews to enter the Al-Aqsa compound in the last 10 days of Ramadan, which many feared would lead to violence.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Israeli security forces in the Old City of Jerusalem before Friday prayers during Ramadan, March 22. Israel has long ensured Al-Aqsa Mosque remains a Muslim place of worship, with Jews allowed to pray at the Western Wall. But Israel's far-right national security minister urged religious Jews to enter the Al-Aqsa compound in the last 10 days of Ramadan, which many feared would lead to violence.
Men prepare for Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa compound during Ramadan in Jerusalem. It is a sacred site in Islam, where the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended into paradise. Despite severe restrictions on Palestinians entering from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, more than 1.5 million worshipers visited the Al-Aqsa compound during the holy month of Ramadan, Jerusalem police said.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Men prepare for Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa compound during Ramadan in Jerusalem. It is a sacred site in Islam, where the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended into paradise. Despite severe restrictions on Palestinians entering from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, more than 1.5 million worshipers visited the Al-Aqsa compound during the holy month of Ramadan, Jerusalem police said.
"Jesus was not born in Texas, he wasn't from Europe, he is not from Africa. He is from Palestine. Christianity started from Jerusalem," says Rafi Ghattas, a scout leader and coordinator for Palestinian Christian youth, in Jerusalem on March 28.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
"Jesus was not born in Texas, he wasn't from Europe, he is not from Africa. He is from Palestine. Christianity started from Jerusalem," says Rafi Ghattas, a scout leader and coordinator for Palestinian Christian youth, in Jerusalem on March 28.
A boy prepares palms while Christians hold a procession on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
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Ayman Oghanna for NPR
A boy prepares palms while Christians hold a procession on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
A woman lights a candle in the Tomb of the Virgin in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, March 24. The war in Gaza deterred many visitors and pilgrims from visiting Jerusalem during Easter. Palestinian Christians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were among those affected by Israeli restrictions on Palestinian travel into Jerusalem. Men had to be age 55 and older, and women had to be 50 and over.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
A woman lights a candle in the Tomb of the Virgin in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, March 24. The war in Gaza deterred many visitors and pilgrims from visiting Jerusalem during Easter. Palestinian Christians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were among those affected by Israeli restrictions on Palestinian travel into Jerusalem. Men had to be age 55 and older, and women had to be 50 and over.
Christians hold a procession on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on March 24, commemorating the day that Christians believe Jesus entered Jerusalem and was greeted by followers waving palms.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
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Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Christians hold a procession on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on March 24, commemorating the day that Christians believe Jesus entered Jerusalem and was greeted by followers waving palms.
A woman kisses the Stone of Anointing on March 24, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe the body of Jesus was prepared for burial.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
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Ayman Oghanna for NPR
A woman kisses the Stone of Anointing on March 24, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe the body of Jesus was prepared for burial.
An Orthodox Jew prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 25. Above the Western Wall is the compound revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount.
/ Ayman Oghanna for NPR
/
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
An Orthodox Jew prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 25. Above the Western Wall is the compound revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount.

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