Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took a tour with the heads of Israel’s churches on Tuesday as part of a project to develop abandoned churches and monasteries along the Jordan River.
The “Land of the Monasteries,” according to Christianity, is where John the Baptist baptized Jesus and his followers.
Over the last few years, Rivlin has promoted the initiative in order to attract more visitors to the area, which has been developed and preserved to welcome tourists. Mines that were set up in the 1970s to prevent access to the area have been removed.
“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,” said Rivlin.
“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,” he continued. “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.