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West Bank : monasteries in Jesus baptismal site of mines liberated and re-opened

The stone cross above the Altar is still intact. Four square pillars on the yellow and blue walls the Church roof. However, the floor of the house of God is completely covered with rubble and dust. Cupboards – or what is left of them – are on the floor. For nearly 50 years, no one has the Church and the adjacent sleeping rooms, more. The Ethiopian monastery is one of the three, which is at the baptismal site of Jesus at the river Jordan for the first time.

return to religious communities

The British Halo Foundation, freed the area of Kasr Al-Jahud (Arabic: the Jewish castle) and its monasteries fall on Jordan, with the support of the Israeli Ministry of defence mines and explosives. Now, the Franciscan monastery and the Greek Orthodox monastery, except for the Ethiopian monastery officially mine-free. "The clearing of the lands, and the possibility of religious communities to return, is a project that makes us very proud", says Marcel Aviv, Director of the Israeli mine-clearing authority.

The site of Jesus Christ, according to Tradition, from the Bible, well over 2000 years ago baptized to be located in the West Bank near the border with Jordan. In the six-day war in 1967 the Israeli army had designed here are mines in order to create a military exclusion zone for the neighbouring country. The monasteries provided them with booby traps. "Terrorists have to hide and Israeli settlements to attack," says Aviv.

the Israelis and Palestinians to work together

desert sand the old cabinets and the chairs that have left the residents in the war in a hurry covered. "The monks have lived here, arable and viticulture," explains Moshe Hillman of the Israeli mining Supervisory authority. In the Ethiopian monastery, a magazine from the year 1967, which is reminiscent of the earlier existence of the monks is also located. In the meantime, chunky dirt covered their sides.

"After the eviction, we give back all the monasteries to their owner," says Aviv. Already in a year it could be as far as. But also the Christian communities, a lot of work is still there. Broken Windows, wrecked inventory, and bullet holes on the facades of buildings need to be repaired.

It is the third holiest place in the world

Georgian deminers from the Halo Foundation began in March of this year with their work on the Site. Israelis and Palestinians are involved. The Work is not meant "only, to eliminate the deadly legacy of the conflict, but to build a bridge between the divided communities," writes the Foundation on its website. "Both our Israeli and our Palestinian workers feel the project deeply connected," says Ronen Schimoni of the Foundation.

mines, which were discovered in and around the monasteries, to be blasted, collected and controlled.Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa

Kasr Al-Jahud is the Christians after the Nativity Church in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy sepulchre in Jerusalem as the third holiest place in the world. But also for the Judaism of the site is of great importance: Here the people of Israel have crossed the Jordan on the way to the promised Land of Canaan. Also for the Palestinians, the baptismal site was "a special place", says the Director of the Palestinian Mine action centre, Issa Gneimat. "The Christian pilgrims and tourists are for the Palestinian leadership is of great importance."

5000 war remains are still buried

About 800,000 pilgrims arrived Aviv, this year, to the baptismal site. On the backed-up Due to the third-most sacred site in Christendom, you will have to pass for the time being, more barbed wire fences and yellow signs that warn of the mines. Still Ministry, according to the latest Figures from the defense up to 5000 war remains in Kasr al-Jahud buried: primarily anti-tank mines, booby traps, and mortar shells. About 1500 have so far been cleared. The British Halo Foundation has provided, according to Aviv so far, approximately $ 2.6 million (2.3 million euros) for the eviction, the Israeli government two million dollars (1.6 million euros).

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As a "positive development" referred to the German bishops ' conference, the clearance work at the baptismal site. "So the place is not just a magnet of tourism, but above all a place of pilgrimage," says spokesman Matthias Kopp. "Just in the Jordan, it is good to find places of calm and Reflection." (Cindy Riechau/dpa)

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