Israel to De-mine Christian Holy Site, Mostly Inaccessible Since 1967

As part of the project, which is a joint effort between the defense ministry and a British mine removal organization, 1000 dunams will be cleared of mines, unexploded ordnances and booby traps.

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People gets baptized in the Jordan River at Qasr el Yahud, believed to be the site where Jesus was baptized by John.
People gets baptized in the Jordan River at Qasr el Yahud, believed to be the site where Jesus was baptized by John.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Gili Cohen
DPA

The Defense Ministry and an organization that works internationally for mine removal have teamed up to clear mines from a Christian holy site which has been inaccessible since the Six-Day War.

Qasr el Yahud, near Jericho, is believed to be the New Testament site where Jesus was baptized by John. The de-mining efforts will begin at the end of the year, a ministry statement said. The project will be jointly funded by the Defense Ministry and international financing, with approval of all area churches.

An area of 1,000 dunams must be cleared of mines — as well as unexploded ordnances and booby traps — without causing harm to any of the site's late medieval monasteries built by crusaders and pilgrims. The Defense Ministry will work together with the British de-mining charity Halo Trust to accomplish the task.

The site was under Jordanian control from 1948 until the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan.

Like many areas along the Israel-Jordan border, it was a site of fighting. When Jordanian troops used the buildings to launch attacks at nearby Israeli communities, Israel set up traps, the Defense Ministry said.

The site has been closed to the public ever since — with the exception of a very small part surrounded by mine fields that is visited by 500,000 tourists every year.

The site is also considered to be the place where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, 40 years after they fled slavery in Egypt, and where Elijah the Prophet ascended to heaven.

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