I was in Jerusalem on September 28, 2000 when Ariel Sharon went into to the al-Aqsa Mosque, provoking what came to be known as the second intifada. There was a riot and the army occupied the area around the mosque and the Western Wall. Seven Palestinians were killed by the IDF. The next day the city was tense and quiet. Soldiers were everywhere, and everyone's nerves were shot. There was no noise except for the call to prayer broadcast from loudspeakers on the minarets that looked over the city.
It was Friday and normally on that day the Franciscans would do the Via Crucis through the Old City, retracing what were traditionally thought to have been the steps of Jesus on his way to Calvary. Because of the situation that day, however, they did not venture out onto the streets, but rather carried out the whole procession inside the Holy Sepulchre, instead of just the end of it.
It was a strange and sad evening inside that strange and sad church. Huge and labyrinthine, home to so many denominations -- Greeks, Catholics, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians -- that night it was crowded as the Franciscans and Armenians both processed in different parts of the building, forced to share the space because of the chaos outside. The clear Gregorian hymns of the Franciscans mixed with the haunting Eastern chants of the Armenians. Outside, the people I had gotten to know over the past week were getting ready for the killing that would be practiced by both sides.