Jesus’ baptism site landmines: “Now this is a border of peace,”.
War long ago silenced the words of God that once resounded in the seven abandoned monasteries along the small paved road that leads to Jesus’ baptismal site on the Israeli side of the Jordan River, known as Qasr al Yehud.
Israel shut down the monasteries for safety reasons during the War of Attrition in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, when there were cross-border raids between Israel and Jordan. It declared the area a military zone and planted thousands of land mines there to stop infiltrations from terrorists and the Jordanian Army.
The project, which began in 2017, is expected to be finished within the next year or two.
Israel’s National Parks Authority is also working jointly with the churches on whose land the monasteries sit. Israel and the churches want to attract 2.4 million tourists annually to an area already visited by 800,000 people a year, Aviv said.
As he led reporters through the Franciscan monastery, Land of the Monasteries Project Manager Moshe Hillman showed the bullet and pock marks on the monastery walls.
Fifty years of dust and rubble fill the small rooms lit only by sunlight that streams through the broken windows.
“When we opened the doors we entered a world that no one treaded on for close to 50 years.”
“I am talking about bottles of wine that had not been touched,” he said. They also found wood crosses and small metal bells.
Everything they found of value was returned to the churches, he said.
Looking at a chair thick with dust, he pointed out the small marks of a bird’s feet. “A bird was the last person to use this chair,” he said.
Walking into these buildings, he said, “has been a journey back in time.”