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President Rivlin toured the “Land of the Monasteries”

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Monasteries

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin today, Tuesday 19 March / 12 Adar II, visited the ‘Land of the Monasteries’ and the Qasr al-Yahud baptismal sitetogether with the heads of the churches in Israel. The President was escorted on his visit by Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj-Gen Kamil Abu Rokon and his deputy Brig-Gen (res) Guy Goldstein, and the Head of the Civil Administration Brig-Gen Achvat Ben-Hur.

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin today, Tuesday 19 March / 12 Adar II, visited the ‘Land of the Monasteries’ and the Qasr al-Yahud baptismal sitetogether with the heads of the churches in Israel. The President was escorted on his visit by Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj-Gen Kamil Abu Rokon and his deputy Brig-Gen (res) Guy Goldstein, and the Head of the Civil Administration Brig-Gen Achvat Ben-Hur.

‘The Land of the Monasteries’ is a wide ranging project to develop the area of abandoned monasteries and churches along the Jordan River close to the site where, according to Christian tradition, John the Baptist baptized Jesus and his disciples. Over the last three years the president has promoted the project in order to increase the number of tourists who come to the area and to develop the sites for visitors from around the world. From the baptismal site and southwards there is an area with a number of key landmarks: churches, chapels and monasteries, which give the area its name. The area, which is of religious and historical significance to Christianity, has been developed and restored in recent years in order to open it to visitors. As part of this, mines that were laid in the 1970s and which prevented access to the area of the churches have been cleared.

On his first visit

to the ‘Land of the Monasteries in 2015, President Rivlin heard about the importance of removing the mines to the project, at a cost of several million NIS, in order to allow the external and internal restoration of the buildings. Since then, the president has worked tirelessly to promote the project with the heads of the churches and has presented the project and emphasized its profound importance to the State of Israeli in his meetings with world leaders. A week after that visit, the president met Pope Francis in the Vatican and presented the plan to him.

In his second meeting with Pope Francis in November 2018, the ‘Land of the Monasteries’ project was the focus of their discussions. The plan is that the buildings, which were inaccessible because of the mines, will be handed over to their Christian owners so they can be developed and opened as pilgrimage sites for visitors from around the world.

The visit began at an observation point over the ‘Land of the Monasteries’, where Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj-Gen Kamil Abu-Rokon briefed the president on the status of the project. After this, the President visited the Franciscan Church, which has been restored and cleared of mines, accompanied by the heads of the churches. Following this, the president visited the Qasr al-Yahud baptismal site. The visit concluded with at the Greek Orthodox St John the Baptist church, where the president and church leaders spoke.

Kamil Abu-Rokon:

“Welcome, Mr President, to one of the most special places in Judea and Samaria. Here, we see the values of the State of Israel – freedom of religion and freedom of worship for all. The Civil Administration is in daily contact with representatives of the various churches, discussing how to maintain and improve the fabric of life in the area. Just in the last year, some 750,000 tourists from around the world visited the baptismal site and the ‘Land of the Monasteries’, bringing significant economic benefit to the residents of the area. We are determined to carry on working together, even in days like these, for stability and security across Judea and Samaria.”

Recently, representatives of the Civil Administration updated the president that all the heads of the churches support the project, led by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, who has given his blessing. The focus of the work so far has been clearing mines, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, as well as creating an environmental master-plan for the development of the entire area.

In his remarks, the president said

“The ‘Land of the Monasteries’ is a place of prayer and holiness. A place of pilgrims from afar who come to be closer to God. But it is also a place that has been injured and broken by war in the past. We are now investing large amounts to restore the site and to return the monasteries to their churches so that Christian pilgrims and other people of faith from around the world can come and visit once again. This is part of Israel’s deep commitment to religious freedom. Unfortunately, for centuries those who ruled the Holy Land did not allow peoples of all faiths to access their holy places. Under Israeli sovereignty, people once again enjoy freedom of religion and worship. The fact that we are all investing in this project is not just an expression of our belief in God, but also an expression of our belief in humanity and in each other.”

“Developing this site will be an important step in building bridges between peoples and religions and will allow the vision of co-existence to become a reality. Cooperation between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and between Christians, Muslims and Jews,” he added.

In conclusion, the president stressed, “As Jerusalemite and the son of Jerusalemites, I can say that there is no substitute for coming here, to the Holy Land, for living here, and for walking and breathing the land of the Bible. Every Christian can walk the route from Jerusalem to Nazareth via Jericho and, if he wants to, can bathe in the waters of the Jordan and feel for himself how the Bible comes to life. The rising number of Christian pilgrims is good for the Israeli economy, but it is also good for the Palestinian economy. In my mind’s eye, I see pilgrims going from the Israeli side to the Jordanian, and vice-versa. This is exactly the kind of mutuality we should aspire to. Because, friends, more than anything else, we were not doomed to live together but destined to do so. I invite you and all believers to join us in this historic project of restoring the ‘Land of the Monasteries’. Let us turn this place on the Jordan River to a place of peace, faith and cooperation for all of us, for our children and for all children of God.”

Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi also congratulated all those involved in the project, saying: “Your visit here is part of your vision and commitment to create cooperation that brings peace to the peoples of the region. On behalf of the government, we are proud to help you, Mr President, bring millions of pilgrims to this special and sacred place.”

Attached photo credits: Mark Neiman (GPO)

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Mi chiamo Fabrizio Tenerelli, sono un foto-giornalista iscritto all’Albo Professionisti della Liguria. Sono redattore del Settimanale La Riviera e del relativo quotidiano online; sono anche corrispondente dell’Agenzia Ansa dalla provincia di Imperia e corrispondente de Il Giornale (di Milano). Ho diretto per sette anni un quotidiano online locale. Durante la mia ultraventennale esperienza in campo giornalistico ho avuto modo di collaborare per quotidiani nazionali, tra cui: Il Giornale di Milano, Repubblica, Il Giorno, il Messaggero, Il Mattino e via dicendo. Ho anche collaborato, a livello fotografico, con diverse testate nazionali, tra cui: Corriere della Sera, settimanale “Oggi” e via dicendo e per televisioni, tra cui Rai e Mediaset. Ho anche collaborato con radio del panorama locale (Radio 103, per la quale ho svolto per anni i notiziario, curando la redazione) e nazionale, tra cui Radio24, per la quale ho svolto alcuni collegamenti per fatti di cronaca. Nel 2014, inoltre, sono stato in Israele, come free lance in territorio di guerra, durante l’operazione “Tzuk Eitan”. Negli ultimi tempi, mi interesso anche di web marketing, web design e sviluppo di siti in Wordpress, Seo e Sem.

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