JERUSALEM (RNS) — In the days before the novel coronavirus, the thought that every church, synagogue and mosque in the Holy Land would be ordered shut was simply unimaginable.

Yet that is today’s reality.

On Wednesday (March 25), the Israeli government instituted a nearly complete COVID-19 lockdown that includes the closure of all houses of worship. The directive permits 10 worshippers to pray outdoors, provided they stand at least 6 feet apart.

The day before, the Ministry of Health revealed that 24% of infected Israelis had contracted the virus in synagogues. Another 5% were exposed in yeshivas.

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In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority shuttered all mosques and churches, including the Church of the Nativity,

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