Westjordanland: Heilige Stätten können von Minen befreit werden
Seit fast einem halben Jahrhundert waren die heiligen Orte rund um Qasr el-Yahud wegen Landminen aus dem Sechstagekrieg für Gläubige nicht zugänglich. Nun hat die Nichtregierungsorganisation HALO sowohl von Israelis als auch von Palästinensern die Erlaubnis erhalten die geschätzten 5.000 Landminen unschädlich zu machen (auf Englisch).
On a sunburnt stretch of desert near the Jordan River, a weather-beaten Romanian Orthodox church waits for its first visitor in 50 years.
The gated entrance has long since fallen apart, its marble column leaning toward the morning sun. The path to the church -- if it ever was a path -- is a thick quilt of shrubs and thistles.
Despite being long abandoned, the church retains much of its historic beauty. A colorful mural of a scene from the Bible, half-visible above the entrance to the church, has dulled over time, but is still magnificent. The church door stands open as if ready to welcome the faithful.
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The land on which the church sits is near one of the holiest Christian sites in the world -- the place where Christians believe Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River.
There are several other churches at the site, but no one has come near them in decades because they are surrounded by nearly 5,000 landmines.
Barbed-wire fences keep visitors far away, with signs warning "DANGER MINES!" in Arabic, English, and Hebrew. When the Six-Day War ended in an uneasy ceasefire in 1967, the Israeli and Jordanian armies laid mines across the area.
The Jordan River at this point is only a few feet wide -- an easy crossing point for an army. The two countries signed a peace agreement in 1994, but the mines were never removed.