15 February 2018
Jesus’ baptism site will be landmine-free for first time in half a century
By Danny De Vaal, The Sun
The place where Jesus was supposedly baptized is to be cleared of landmines – and could be opened to the public for the first time in 50 years.
The area known as Qasr al-Yahud is located six miles east of Jericho near the Jordan River in the Palestinian territories.
It has seven churches along with chapels and monasteries that were constructed in the 1930’s during the period when Britain controlled the area.
Access to the popular pilgrimage spot was blocked by Israel in 1968 but a road through the minefield to the river opened in 2011 which allowed pilgrimages to resume.
The UK-based HALO Trust, which will be carrying out the de-mining process, estimates there are around 2,600 anti-tank and 1,200 anti-personnel mines buried at the site.
The Times of Israel reported how the country’s defense ministry has agreed to help fund the project with HALO.
HALO estimates it will cost $1.5 million to de-mine the site and it has raised almost $1 million so far.
The group said: “Clearing minefields at the Baptism Site not only removes a deadly legacy of conflict – it helps build bridges between fractured communities.”
“Once we have cleared the land, the churches can be refurbished and the land and churches along the western bank of the Jordan River can be visited once more in safety.”
The work could take two years to complete and workers will use a mixture of manual demining, mechanical demining, alongside the explosive ordnance disposal.
The team will include Israelis, Palestinians and Georgians.
Even though it remains unclear as to the precise location Jesus was baptized, there have been monasteries on the site since 400 AD which suggest a long tradition.