When Charlotte's interfaith tourists reached Jerusalem on Thursday, the sounds of the holy city were a testament to its religious diversity: Jewish groups banged on drums to celebrate bar mitzvahs; an amplified Arabic speaker chanted the Muslim call to prayer; and Christian churches rang bells to beckon pilgrims to worship.
By Friday, as they walked along the stone alleyways of old Jerusalem, the Charlotteans heard another sound: Explosives.
Israeli police used loud stun grenades to disperse young Muslims who began throwing stones and firebombs on the Temple Mount -- an area sacred to both Jews and Muslims, who call it the Noble Sanctuary.
Members of Charlotte's Temple Beth El and Myers Park Baptist didn't witness the clash. But they were nearby, preparing to visit the Western Wall -- the most important shrine in Judaism.
But it was clear first thing Friday morning that the Israeli army was on high alert: At nearly every intersection, young soldiers stood at the ready with their M-16 rifles. They were also on guard at the Western Wall.
The morning and afternoon hours on Fridays are especially crowded and tense times in Jerusalem: Muslims gather in great numbers for Friday prayer; Jews get ready for Shabbat, or Sabbath, which starts at sundown; and those Christian pilgrims from Eastern Europe, Africa, the United States and elsewhere solemnly note the day of the week that Jesus was crucified by the Romans in Jerusalem.
-- Tim Funk