For two November days, pilgrims were turned away from major Christian shrines throughout Palestine-Israel. Church doors were closed to protest Israel's decision to allow construction of a mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. For tourists it was only a temporary inconvenience, but for Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land it was a tragic sign of the weakening of their historically strong bond.
The dispute began in 1997 when Nazareth decided to create a public square next to the Basilica of the Annunciation in anticipation of millennial tourism. Anyone who has navigated the narrow, crowded streets of Nazareth can appreciate the need for such a public space.
Alain Epp Weaver directs strategic planning for the Mennonite Central Committee and is the author of Mapping Exile and Return: Palestinian Dispossession and a Political Theology for a Shared Future (Fortress).