Work starts to clear mines from traditional site of Jesus’s baptism

Christian Orthodox pilgrims march towards the Jordan River from the Greek Orthodox monastery of St John the Baptist before a baptism ceremony at Qasr Al-Yahud as part of the Feast of the Epiphany in the West Bank. The HALO Trust has begun work to clear about 3,000 pieces of ordnance scattered around the holy site. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2018
0

Work starts to clear mines from traditional site of Jesus’s baptism

JERUSALEM: Israeli and international experts have started clearing thousands of wartime land mines and explosive devices from one of Christianity’s holiest sites, in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli defense ministry said Tuesday.
It said work began this week to clear about 3,000 pieces of ordnance believed to be scattered around the Qasr Al-Yahud Greek Orthodox monastery, on the banks of the River Jordan, at the spot where many believe Jesus was baptised by his cousin John.
The mines date from the Six-Day War of 1967 in which Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan.
“Of the 3,000, some of them are Israeli, some of them are Jordanian and some of them we’ll only know when we find them,” defense ministry spokeswoman Arielle Hefez told AFP.
Britain-based HALO Trust, the world’s largest humanitarian mine clearing organization, is working with the Israel National Mine Action Authority (INMAA) to clear what the defense ministry described as “roughly one million square meters (10.8 million square feet) of land.”
HALO said on its website that there are an estimated 2,600 anti-personnel and anti-tank land mines at the Qasr Al-Yahud site, restricting access for the more than 400,000 pilgrims who visit each year.
“It is home to ancient churches and monasteries, which haven’t been safe to visit for nearly 50 years,” it added.
It said that according to testimonies of former soldiers, an unknown number of booby traps were also laid.
“This makes the clearance of the site a complex task.”
HALO estimated that the clearance work would take two years and cost around $1.5 million.
The defense ministry said the site houses churches of eight different denominations.
“Once the clearance is complete and INMAA and HALO officials can assure the site is safe, the church plots will be returned to their respective denominations and visitors will once again be able to visit these holy sites.”
Another site on the Jordanian side of the river — Wadi Al-Kharrar, or Bethany Beyond the Jordan — is also venerated as the place of Jesus’s baptism.


Syrian refugee turns his escape into a video game

Updated 20 March 2019
0

Syrian refugee turns his escape into a video game

  • Karam left Hama in 2014, crossed the border into Turkey then started the long and arduous trek through Europe
  • Karam bumped into games developer Georg Hobmeier in Salzburg and the pair started working on “Path Out”

SALZBURG, Austria: Abdullah Adnan Karam stares down at the computer screen and watches the story of his escape from war-torn Syria to his new home in Austria play out step by step as a game.
The 23-year-old left the northwestern city of Hama in 2014, crossed the border into Turkey then started the long and arduous trek through Europe.
A year later, after his arrival in Austria, he bumped into games developer Georg Hobmeier in Salzburg and the pair started working on what would become the PC/Mac game “Path Out.”
“What the player is kind of playing is part of my story, let’s say. My (personal) story had more action in it,” Karam told Reuters Television.
Karam provided the story and Hobmeier’s company Causa Creations, alongside Vienna-based firm Wobblersound and Austrian-American graphic designer Brian Main, worked on the technical side.
Players can choose different routes and meet different fates. “Remember guys, don’t get me killed,” Karam says in a promotional video.
The story starts before the war, letting players move Karam through his home, meeting friends and relatives, before the scene degenerates into a battlefield.