The Place Where Jesus Was Baptized Was Laced with Landmines, Now Israel Is Fixing That
- [Chris] This is Qasr alYahud on the Jordan River
the place many believeJohn baptized Jesus.
It's also thought to be thearea the children of Israel
crossed over to thePromised Land and the site
where Elijah ascended to heaven.
Israel's side of the baptismalsite opened to visitors
in 2011 but the 250 acre area around it,
known as the Land of the Monasteries
remained off limits.
This area is strewn with mines and other
explosive devices remainingfrom the Six Day War and beyond.
Because of securityconcerns the area was marked
and fenced and access tothe churches' properties
has been restricted since the 1970s.
- We are walking here almostone year in this monastery,
we walk here every month.
It take us time to clean the area.
Clean for mines, clean frommortars, clean for booby traps.
- [Chris] Seven churcheshave property here.
Three monasteries havealready been cleaned
and CBN News toured two of them.
Franciscan Chapel was built in 1956
and belongs to the Vatican.
The Ethiopian Monastery was much larger
and had a bakery and guest house.
- Every millimeter ofthis side checked at least
by three people and bytwo different actions.
So as you understand,it's a very dangerous
and difficult job.
- [Chris] Marcel Avivleads the Israeli agency
responsible for this type of operation.
It's working with HallowTrust, the world's oldest
and largest humanitarianmine clearance charity
to clean this area.
- When we will finish all the job here,
both lands will be given to their owners
and the owners are the churches.
- [Chris] During the Six DayWar, this church owned land
came under Israeli control.
It became an easy target for the Palestine
Liberation Organization toattack Israeli soldiers.
Eventually, the monks abandoned the area
and explosives were spread all around.
Israel has maps of the mines but according
to supervisor, MosheHilman, many have shifted
over the years.
And there are other challenges.
- And it was here full of metal.
It was firing zone, itwas irrigation zone.
Monks have a small farm in this monastery
so it take us time to clean.
- [Chris] Some 800,000 peoplevisit the baptismal site
each year and that's expected to triple
once the monasteries are back.
- I hope that this gardenthat was left 50 years ago
will be green again andall of us will be happy
to visit here and tosee this amazing area.
I hope it will be, I'm sure it will be.
- [Chris] Chris Mitchell,CBN News, Qasr al Yahud,
the Jordan Valley.