JERUSALEM — Religious authorities moved to cancel or limit weekly prayer gatherings across the Middle East on Friday to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus as they encouraged the faithful to pray for those afflicted by the global pandemic. Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Jerusalem said services would continue to be held in the Holy Land but moved to limit indoor gatherings after the Israeli Health Ministry said they should not exceed 100 people. At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site where Jews can pray, authorities will limit entrance to an enclosed area and set up tents that accommodate up to 100 people. But the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which oversees the site, said there would be no restrictions on worship in the main plaza as it constitutes a “wide, open space.” In recent days the foundation has encouraged people to join in special prayers for victims of the virus, which has infected nearly 130,000 people worldwide and caused more than 4,700 deaths. Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, meanwhile ordered Jews to stop visiting the Western Wall, cancel mass prayers and pray near their homes “until the wrath passes and mercy comes from heaven.”


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