Christian Israeli-Arab wants to build Rio-style Jesus statue near Nazareth

Bishara Shlayan wants to build huge Jesus statue on Mount Precipice, near his home city in the Galilee.

THE ‘CHRIST the Redeemer’ statue in Rio de Janeiro 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
THE ‘CHRIST the Redeemer’ statue in Rio de Janeiro 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Bishara Shlayan, a Christian Arab from Nazareth, is hoping to build a huge statue of Jesus on Mount Precipice, near his home city.
Shlayan told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that he has already begun fund-raising for the project and that he is getting positive feedback from the Israeli Arab Christian community as well as some Jews.
He sees the statue as being similar to but larger than the huge Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Shlayan is also looking to found a Christian Arab political party, which he says is still being sorted out, but has settled on the name “Bnei Habrit [Allies of the Covenant], the Christian party of Israel.”
The party would support Israel as a Jewish state and national or army service for Arabs.
“I created the Bnei Habrit party and now I have created the Diglei Habrit [Flags of the Covenant] organization,” in order to carry out the statue project, he said.
Mount Precipice, also known as Mount Kedumim, is believed by some to be the place where the people of Nazareth attempted to push Jesus off the mountain after rejecting him as the messiah. In the end he was able to jump off and disappeared, according to Christian tradition.
When Shlayan was in Jerusalem a month ago, he said he met Tourism Minister Uzi Landau by chance and asked him about the statue idea. Shlayan says that Landau said, “Start it, and we will bless it.”
Shlayan is seeking a government support for the project, and says that churches are waiting for official confirmation before getting on board with the plan.
The Jewish National Fund owns the land where he wants to build, he said.
Asked about opposition, Shlayan responded, “People who are against it, it comes from jealousy.”
Asked if there is opposition based on religious grounds, he said there are some Muslims and Jews that are not too pleased with the idea.
On the streets of Nazareth, one can hear Muslim opposition to the plan, he said, and some of the supporters of the new Muslim mayor, Ali Salam, said they would prefer a statue of the mayor rather than of Jesus.
In Judaism and Islam, statues are a form of idolatry.
“I don’t believe in statues, but it is a symbol of love and peace,” Shlayan said.
Shlayan is also seeking the support of international Christian organizations.
Regarding his political party, he said he is ready to register the party, but is waiting for more donations, since once he registers the amount donors can give is restricted.
The plan for the statue “could help the party,” he said adding that it would bring more Christian support.
In addition, he said that Robert Goldberg, an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America (formerly UJC) and the former chairman of the United Jewish Communities, visited him in Nazareth and showed his support for his new party and said it could help bring peace.