The site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River has been memorialized for centuries and visited by countless Christian pilgrims over the years.
Near the site, dozens of Christian churches were built to host these many pilgrims.
But when Israeli forces captured the region from Jordan in 1967, they laid thousands upon thousands of landmines into the ground turning the area into a ghost town.
The churches have been abandoned due to the landmines for 50 years, falling into disrepair.
But now, due to a new project, hundreds of landmines have been removed and some churches have even reopened to visitors!
The site on the Jordan River is just north of the Dead Sea and is home to abandoned Ethiopian, Greek, Russian, Syrian, Romanian, and Coptic Orthodox churches, as well as a Franciscan chapel.
In order to clear the site of mines, as well as other unexploded ordinance from the conflict, Israel’s defense ministry has teamed up with de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.
The project, even though it only covers a portion of the minefield, is a huge undertaking and is expected to cost $5.4 million and a year and a half of work.
The project began last March and is a little over halfway complete expecting to be completed in late spring 2019.
So far one Ethiopian and one Greek Orthodox monastery have been completely cleared as well as a Franciscan Chapel.
According to the de-mining charity’s CEO James Cowan, “The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of landmines and other remnants of war … we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”
Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are next on the list for the project.
Once the entire project is complete, the churches will be returned to their respective denominations for renovations and hopefully eventually be reopened to the public.
According to France24 news, “At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.
Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.
A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat along a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.”
Now that these sites are being cleaned up, do you hope to make your own pilgrimage to the site of Jesus’ baptism some day in the future? Let us know in the comments.