Israel opens Jesus baptism site

Israel opened the traditional baptism site of Jesus to daily visits July 12, a move that required the cooperation of Israel’s military and the removal of nearby mines in the West Bank along the border with Jordan.

The location, where many believe John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River, is one of the most important sites in Christianity.

Until now, it was opened several times a year in coordination with the Israeli military, but because of its sensitive location, it had not been regularly open to the public since Israel captured the site from Jordan, along with the rest of the West Bank, in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Today the baptism site sits among old minefields and near an Israeli military post in the Jordan Valley. Israel renovated the site at a cost of $2.3 million and removed some of the nearby mines, Israeli officials said. — ap