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Five takeaways from my trip to the Holy Land — and how it compares to another religious place: Utah

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) Tribune religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack healing her feet in the salty Dead Sea on Saturday, April 16, 2022.

In April, I traveled to Israel to observe and report on the rare confluence of three religious holidays — Passover, the Jewish celebration of freedom; Easter, the Christian remembrance of Christ’s resurrection; and Ramadan, the 30-day Islamic ritual of fasting.

In a place where these three faiths have battled for centuries over lands and rights, I wanted to see how they got along in everyday life. I also wondered if that dynamic parallels Utah, with its predominant faith and various minority religions.

Here are some of the things I learned:

• Even after a violent episode when Muslims threw rocks down on Jews at the Western Wall and Israeli soldiers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, calm returned to the Old City, where shoppers went about their business without interruption.

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) A market at the Damascus Gate near the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, April 15, 2022.

• There are self-imposed separations among Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities, based on shared beliefs and practices.

If you travel in the Galilee, “you will see Arab villages, you will see Jewish towns, you will see an Arab Christian village, an Arab Muslim village, an Arab Druze village,” Rabbi David Rosen, Israel’s chief interfaith leader, told me. “And even within the Jewish towns, you’ll have an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, you will have a modern Orthodox neighborhood.”

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) Jews pray at the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, April 14, 2022.

• To Palestinians, religion and politics cannot be separated.

Your religion is noted on your birth certificate and that determines your status, Palestinian activist Kefah Abukhdeir said, where you can travel and what rights you have. Israeli Jews get automatic citizenship; Palestinians Arabs and Christians get permanent residency.

• Some Latter-day Saints who live in Jerusalem feel welcome and accepted by their Muslim and Jewish neighbors. Despite the occasional car bomb or riot, they feel safe there.

• The physical landscape — with its Dead Sea and desert geography — is similar to the Beehive State. And, though Mormonism is not formally divided like Jews into ultra-Orthodox, modern Orthodox, secular and nonbelieving factions, many members do informally organize themselves along lines of belief and practice.

Read my full story.

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