40.9 F
Indianapolis
Thursday, January 14, 2021

Minefields surround traditional site of Jesus’ baptism

More by this author

Affirmative action, black juries among new SCOTUS issues

The Supreme Court justices return to the bench Monday to start their new term.Here are some noteworthy cases the justices will hear over the...

Man Struck, Killed by Roller Coaster at Ohio Amusement Park

A man who entered a restricted area at Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park to look for a lost cellphone has been struck by a...

Apple More Than Doubles Hiring of Women and Minorities

Apple says it more than doubled the numbers of women, blacks and Hispanics hired in the last year, although that barely moved the needle...

IHSAA bylaw targets recruiting of younger athletes

Parents at a summer Little League All-Star tournament will have to be much more careful of what they say or who they talk to....

Just months before the official opening of one of Christianity’s holiest sites to visitors, the area where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus remains surrounded by thousands of land mines.

Israel says the sites visited by pilgrims and tourists in an area known as Qasr el-Yahud will be safe, but advocacy groups warn that crowds could be in danger.

Earlier this week, some 15,000 Christian pilgrims marched between two fenced-in minefields to reach the Epiphany ceremony led by the Greek Orthodox patriarch on the Jordan River, five miles east of the oasis town of Jericho at the edge of the West Bank.

Worshippers from around the world dipped themselves in the muddy waters, facing fellow believers on the other side of the small river. Orthodox clergymen dressed in dark frocks and robes chanted prayers as Patriarch Theofilos III blessed the waters, hurled branches and released white doves into the air.

This site is Christianity’s third holiest – after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, on the spot where Christian belief says Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where tradition holds Jesus was born – and the baptism marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

Since Israel took control of the area in the 1967 Mideast war, pilgrims have had to coordinate their visits with the Israeli military, because of security concerns and leftover land mines.

The ancient churches and monasteries on the Israeli side, some dating back to the 4th century, are surrounded by signs reading “Danger! Mines!”

“Since it was a border, the place is really littered by hundreds and hundreds of mines, and therefore the area is not open to the public and to the believers and pilgrims,” said Avner Goren, an archaeologist who works with Israel’s Tourism Ministry.

The ministry says about 60,000 people visit each year, but with the upcoming official opening that number is expected to rise to the millions. No date for the opening has been set.

The Israeli military says the baptism site and adjacent churches are located in a “completely mine-free zone,” and insists “no danger is posed to tourists or worshippers.”

“The (military) regularly clears away minefields in the Jordan River Valley, and in the last year alone approximately 8,000 mines have been removed from the area,” the military said in a statement.

Dhyan Or, the Israel director of the global anti-mining advocacy group Roots of Peace, said there are half a million mines in the Jordan Valley – an area prone to floods. He warned that land mines could drift from the fenced areas, and that overzealous worshippers could stray from the marked paths.

“There is no political problem to remove the mines and no technical problem to do so,” he said. “All that is missing is the political will.”

In contrast, Jordan cleared the minefields on its side of the border after signing a peace deal with Israel in 1994. Jordan has developed a cultural heritage center on its side across the narrow river from the West Bank shrine, claiming it as the site of the baptism. The center has attracted millions of tourists. Pope John Paul II visited the Jordanian site in 2000, reinforcing the Jordanian claim.

- Advertisement -

Upcoming Online Townhalls

- Advertisement -

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest local news.

Stay connected

16,331FansLike
3,142FollowersFollow
5,989FollowersFollow
14SubscribersSubscribe

Related articles

Popular articles

Art & Soul Fest goes virtual

The Art & Soul Festival, hosted by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, is usually a chance for artists and Indianapolis residents to...

Our Future is Powerful Voices

This program is closing the opportunity gap for black and brown students. Find out how you can participate.

Too many are dying

Black Indianapolis has to rediscover a culture of life. Last year we lost 158 Black people to criminal homicides...

Indianapolis readies to host 2022 College Football Playoff championship

The 2022 College Football Playoff national championship will be in Indianapolis next January, leaving the host city’s planning team 12 more months...

Sister Soldiers: Black female veterans share stories of military service

Do an image search of the word “soldier” online, and the pictures revealed will be overwhelmingly white and male. However, African-Americans and women have...
Español + Translate »
Skip to content