- Title: Mine-free River Jordan shrine ends 50 year wait for Epiphany
- Date: 10th January 2021
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Hebrew) HEAD OF ISRAELI COORDINATOR OF GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES IN THE TERRITORIES (COGAT) OFFICE IN JERICHO, LIEUTENANT COLONEL AMOS TWITO, SAYING: "The ceremony this year will be held in a minimized manner due to the coronavirus pandemic, while (we are) strictly maintaining the health ministry's instructions." VARIOUS OF SIGNS READING IN (Arabic, English AND Hebrew): 'BE CAREFUL, DANGER LANDMINES
- Embargoed: 24th January 2021 14:59
- Keywords: Christians Israel Jordan River Jordan Valley Palestinians Qasr Al Yahud West Bank
- Location: QASR AL YAHUD, WEST BANK
- City: QASR AL YAHUD, WEST BANK
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Middle East,Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA003DUMF1P5
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: After a years-long effort to remove landmines near where Christians believe Jesus was baptized, Fransciscan friars marked the Epiphany holiday on Sunday (January 10) by visiting a Jordan River shrine that had been marooned for over 50 years.
The river banks were once a war zone between Israel and Jordan, and were littered with thousands of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The two neighbors made peace in 1994 but it took many years before the defusing and clearing began.
Seven churches have lain abandoned for more than 50 years in the area of operations, about a kilometer (half-mile) from the Qasr al-Yahud baptism site in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which is a major draw for Christian pilgrims.
De-mining efforts by Israeli and Palestinian authorities began in 2018, according to the Halo Trust, a Scottish-based mine clearance group. As of 2021, "the danger has been completely removed," a branch of Israel's defence ministry said.
In a procession on Sunday marking the Epiphany celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ, Father Francesco Patton, the custodian of the Holy Land for the Roman Catholic church, led clergymen towards a Catholic shrine in the de-mined area.
"54 years and three days ago, we lost this site because of the war. Today, we are back to pray," said Father Ibrahim Faltas. Attendance at the procession was capped at 50 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
After visiting the shrine, the friars walked past signs reading "DANGER - MINES!" in English, Arabic and Hebrew as they went down to the river to pray.
(Production: Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh, Adel Abu Nemeh)
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