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Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Cleared of Landmines for Easter, Jesus’ Baptism Site Now Closed by COVID-19

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on April 17, 2020.

For over 50 years, Jesus’ baptismal site was a casualty of war.

Now, it is a casualty of the new coronavirus.

Last week in time for Easter, the UK-based demining specialist HALO Trust group exploded in chain reaction the final 500 landmines at Israel’s Qasr al-Yahud monastery complex.

“We got the churches together, all eight different denominations, and then we got the Israelis and the Palestinians,” HALO Trust CEO James Cowan told the BBC.

“So all three major faiths, and we looked at how we could do this.”

Located six miles east of Jericho on the Jordan River, “Bethany beyond the Jordan” in 1968 was placed by Israel under military jurisdiction following the Six Day War. Fearing terrorist infiltration across the shallow riverbed, the army laid over 6,000 landmines and booby-trapped the churches.

Israel declared peace with Jordan in 1995, but the area remained closed.

In 2011, it was partially reopened, allowing access along one narrow path between the Jordan River and the Greek Orthodox St. John the Baptist Monastery.

And in 2016, HALO Trust, which works in 27 nations around the world, announced…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Jesus’ Baptism Site is a Minefield to Navigate. Literally.

Israel Baptism Landmines
(Heidi Levine for The National)

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on December 19.

For fifty years, John baptized Jesus in private.

But last week on the western bank of the Jordan River, landmines were cleared to allow visitors a first look at a faded fresco of the baptism in a crumbling Ethiopian monastery.

Trudging through mud while avoiding well-marked areas warning of live charges remaining from the Six-Day War, intrepid pilgrims once again received iconic witness of the beloved Son.

“Israel placed the mines between 1967 and 1971 because there was a war,” Marcel Aviv, head of the Israel National Mine Action of Authority, a branch of the Defense Ministry, told the Times of Israel, standing a few hundred yards from Jordan.

“But now it’s empty because it’s a border of peace.”

Israel partially reopened the Qasr al-Yahud baptismal site in 2011. But visitors…

Please click here to read the full story at Christianity Today.