Qasr al-Yahud, a site just north of the Dead Sea near Jericho where many Christians believe Jesus was baptized, will be cleared of landmines a half-century after Israel took control of the area during the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Israeli Defense Ministry will carry out the clearing operation together with the HALO Trust, which describes itself as “the world’s largest humanitarian mine clearance organization.” The area includes ancient churches and monasteries that have been deemed unsafe because they are surrounded by landmines. About 247 acres are set to be cleared.
“The HALO Trust has secured approval from the Israelis, Palestinians, and religious denominations to remove the landmines so that people can explore the area in safety,” the trust said in a statement on Monday. “Clearing minefields at the baptism site not only removes a deadly legacy of conflict; it helps build bridges between fractured communities. Once we have cleared the land, the churches can be refurbished and the land and churches along the western bank of the Jordan River can be visited once more in safety.”
According to Jewish tradition, the site lies in the general area where Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan. It is also considered holy by Muslims.