During the week covered by this review, we received 3 articles on the following subjects:
Haaretz, March 21, 2018; Israel Hayom, March 21, 2018
The first article reports that the Landmine Clearance Authority announced that it will initiate a year-long project to clear the land surrounding Qasr el Yahud from thousands of mines. The site is of significance for Christians, Muslims and Jews. It is the traditional location for the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. According to Jewish tradition, it is the place where the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River on their way to the Promised Land, as well as the site where the Prophet Elijah parted from Elisha and ascended into heaven. Seven ancient monasteries are located on the land, yet because of the presence of mines, they have been abandoned, and pilgrims have not been able to visit them. After a forty-year closure, the site re-opened again only seven years ago, with narrow access being provided between one of the monasteries and the Jordan River. The rest of the land is marked as a minefield. As part of the project, it is estimated that about 3000 mines of different varieties (including anti-tank mines) will be cleared from a territory of about 1000 acres. Given that the site has already drawn in hundreds of thousands of Christian tourists since opening its gates, it is expected that securing the area will draw in even more visitors.
In the second article, Israeli politician Uzi Dayan argues that more needs to be done to connect the site of Qasr el Yahud to its Jewish roots. The first aliyah did not take place between 1882 and 1904, argues Dayan, but 3291 years ago, when Israel crossed over the Jordan River under the leadership of Joshua.
On Monday, there will be a large gathering at the site. Those in attendance will commemorate the entry of the Israelites into the land of Israel. Christians come here to celebrate, says Dayan, and “… it’s about time we celebrate our history here, too.” The gathering will also call on the government to use the Hebrew name for the site, Ma’abarot HaYarden (“the Jordan Crossings”). Dayan argues that it is not right to identify the site by an Arab name that was given to it by Christian monks, nor to think of it primarily as a Christian site. The gathering will call on the government to develop the area. In 2017, more than 600,000 visitors arrived at the site, and with proper development, argues Dayan, that number can come close to 2 million. Dayan is also in favor of building a hotel on the site, as well as an amphitheater and other amenities. This sort of development will be good for Israel, and for the Jordan River, as well as for those Christian traditions who still own land in the area.
HaMevasser, March 21, 2018
Seventy missionaries are reported to have arrived this week from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. They went from house to house in neighborhoods all over the country, working primarily in teams, but also splitting into pairs. The pairs consisted of one local Hebrew-speaking missionary, and one foreign missionary. Yad L’Achim claims its hotline received many calls from local residents complaining that missionaries asked to come into their homes to talk. In response, Yad L’Achim warned citizens against the “dangerous cult,” which is said to use deceitful means with malicious intent. The outcome, says Yad L’Achim, was positive: “In all these instances, we managed to prevent the continued activity of criminal missionary work, and caused the missionaries to return deflated to their centers. Nevertheless, we ask the public to keep their eyes open and call us if there is suspicion of a missionary hazard.” It is reported that the missionary campaign is expected to continue.