has opened what some believe is the baptism site of Jesus to daily visits in a move that required the cooperation of Israel's military and the removal of nearby mines along the border with Jordan.
The site, called Qasr al-Yahud, was opened to the public in a festive ceremony Tuesday after being closed for 44 years, excluding several Christian holy days throughout the year.
From now, the site will be open all year long and visits will not require pre-coordination.
Minister for Regional Cooperation Silvan Shalom told Ynet during the ceremony that the opening of site, after an NIS 10 million ($3 million) renovation, was "a miracle".
"After being closed and neglected for 44 years, we managed to meet this challenge with a lot of sources and despite the bureaucracy," he said.
Tuesday's ceremony (Photo: Ziv Reinstein)
The minister thanked the Defense Ministry and Israel Defense Forces for their cooperation and added that the site "has a huge touristic potential, and the option of hosting hundreds of thousands of people who will come here and extend their stay in Israel."
Some believe the West Bank site is where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River.
However, Jordan says a site on its side of the river is where the baptism took place.
The West Bank site has not been regularly open to the public since the 1967 war,
when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan.
Palestinian Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes charges that Tuesday's opening of the site is "illegal." He calls it part of Israel's "occupation" and "monopoly" of Palestinian historical and touristic resources.