Five hundred words and three photos from one place. This time: a church in the middle of a minefield, water you can walk on, an international border with no soldiers and a legal limbo that wouldn’t make sense anywhere else.
What is the strangest place in the world? Depends how you define “strange.” In English, one must differentiate between strange, weird, bizarre and my personal favorite: eerie.
If there ever was an “eerie” place in this delusional country between the river and the sea, it can be found close to the Jordan River. In the following photo one can see tourists waving hello at a site called “Qasr el Yahud” (“Castle of the Jews” in Arabic). These women are sitting in the Kingdom of Jordan, but the photograph was taken from the West Bank of the river, under Israeli control.
Two years ago, Israel began granting access to the river east of Jericho, once it realized that many tourists could visit the place Jesus was baptized by simply going through Jordan. There is already a road leading to the river between minefields, and once a year the Greek patriarch leads a procession through it. All that’s left to do is grant access to anyone who wants it, build a parking lot for buses and place a soldier to ensure that nobody walks across the river to the other side.
Yes, I wrote “walks.” There is no need to swim. The depth of the “river” at this point is approximately a meter and is, on average, only five meters wide. It is surrounded on both banks by one of the less predictable views this world has to offer. John the Baptist was, in the words of the Gospel, “a voice crying in the wilderness.” The desert remains, flat and rocky, full of churches removed from any city, town or village. One is made of fortified concrete, while three others have sparkling, golden domes. An onion-shaped Russian dome decorates a large building as if it were uprooted from St. Petersburg and gently placed here.
Another church, near where the buses park, is entirely surrounded by mines. The small, destroyed chapel is surrounded by a rosy, stone wall. Near it are signs that read “beware of mines.” Not...Read More