An Old City alley on the eve of Ramadan


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

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Spiritual Jerusalem Unites Us

Walking the alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem in the last days of the holy month of Ramadan, it becomes clear that spirituality is not confined to one faith. The Easter holiday taking place at the same time shows that Jerusalem is a place that unites and does not divide, a place where the human being is the most important. If it were not for the militarized Israeli police imposed on the city and its alleys, I would have said that this is a city from another world.

Near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you see Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan with a permanent smile on his face. A dignified figure, he stands tall in front of a shop in the Old City in the Dabbagha Market (Souk al-Dabbagha), exchanging conversations with his friend Abu Muhammad, 70, owner of the shop, congratulating him on the holy month of Ramadan, and inviting him to break the fast with him.

The Lutheran Church (Church of the Redeemer) in Jerusalem's Old City, May 20, 2014

The Lutheran Church (Church of the Redeemer), the second Protestant church in Jerusalem, shown here adjacent to nearby shops in the Old City souk, May 20, 2014


Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images

Reminding him of his youthful days in the Old City, Abu Muhammad responds by congratulating the bishop on the holy Easter celebration. Speaking to Jerusalem Story, he observed that he has known Bishop Younan for decades and that he is more than a brother to him.1

Bishop Younan describes himself as a Palestinian Jerusalemite to the core.2 He lived and grew up in a city that knows tolerance. He never felt that there was a difference between him and his friends except for the location of their prayers: He heads to the church; they make their way to al-Aqsa Mosque.

In recent years, there has been a phenomenon particular to Jerusalem, which is the keenness of the heads of the various Eastern and Western Christian churches to hold an iftar banquet for Jerusalemite Islamic figures and their friends. Likewise, the youth of the Christian Quarter hold an iftar banquet for their friends in the Bab Hatta and al-Sa‘diyya (Muslim) neighborhoods, who respond with home visits and congratulations to their Christian neighborhoods on the Easter and Christmas holidays.

Palestinian during a charity Ramadan iftar feast outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, August 27, 2009.

Palestinian Muslims break their day-long Ramadan fast during a charity iftar feast outside the Dome of the Rock in the Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem, August 27, 2009.


Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

This year, all celebrations have disappeared due to the sadness that envelops the holy city. There is grief over Israel’s genocidal assault on the Gaza Strip and the world’s failure to stop it.

In the last days of Ramadan this year, which coincided with the beginning of Easter celebrations for those following the Western Christian calendar, the Old City was filled with a spiritual atmosphere, but the alleys are solemn and joyless; the entire city is wrapped in a sense of deep sadness. People grieve for the situation of Palestinians in general and Gaza in particular.

This was clear in Bishop Younan’s Easter sermon, delivered to the faithful of the Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, which lies outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, right in front of the Dabbagha (Tanning) Market in the Christian Quarter:

We are still living in the circumstances of war, either in Gaza or in the West Bank, and today we live in a state of confusion, fear, sadness, and anger at everything our eyes see on television screens or social media. But we are not like students in a room with closed doors. Rather, we live in a country closed because of fear and confusion while we are stuck not knowing what the future holds for us.3

Bishop Younan ended his sermon:

Regardless of the alliances of countries and the decisions of politicians and influential people, it is the living God who is powerful and will not allow human injustice to continue. As long as there is a living God, there is also a living hope that peace based on justice will be achieved. This is God’s will for our beloved country.4

Dimitri Diliani, a Jerusalemite political and social activist, argues that the occupation has stifled all desire to celebrate. He told Jerusalem Story:

Jerusalem is living its darkest times under the Israeli occupation, which is becoming more fascist, racist, and oppressive day after day. At a time when the Easter holidays for Christians who follow the Western calendar, and the fasting season for those who follow the Eastern calendar, coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, we find that the Israeli occupation is imposing a siege. This is a harsh act against the holy city of Jerusalem because it prevents Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank, and people from Gaza from arriving to pray. The people of Gaza, who are experiencing an unprecedented genocidal war, are unable to exercise their natural right to pray in the occupied Arab city of Jerusalem. The occupation also puts obstacles to residents of the city themselves through security checkpoints that prevent them from freely reaching their places of worship in the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.5

Yet still, Jerusalem remains the most beautiful, tolerant, and loving city, as everyone melts into it out of love, this city that unites and does not divide.



Abu Muhammad, interview by the author, April 10, 2024.


Munib Younan, interview by the author, April 10, 2024.


Bishop Munib Younan, sermon delivered on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024. Translated from Arabic by the Jerusalem Story Team.


Younan, sermon.


Dimitri Diliani, interview by the author, April 9, 2024.

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