A Christian Arab citizen of Israel has said he would like to build a towering statue of Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth, reminiscent of the 98-foot tall Christ the Redeemer edifice in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Bashara Shlayan has begun raising money for the ambitious project which he told the Jerusalem Post he envisions as even larger than the Brazilian model. Plans are for the new statue to be constructed on Mount Precipice in Nazareth, a city in which more than two-thirds of the population is Muslim.
In July, TheBlaze reported on another project Shlayan has been spearheading, that is forming an Israeli Arab political party that supports the conscription of Israel’s Christian Arab citizens into the Israel Defense Forces, a position the country’s Muslim population largely opposes.
He said over the summer that creating the new political platform was a direct response to fears for the Christian populations living in neighboring countries impacted by the “Arab Spring” revolutions. Further distinguishing himself from his Muslim Arab neighbors, Shlayan has called himself an “Arab Christian in Israel who recognizes the land of Israel as belonging to the Jews.”
While his political party is called “Bnai Brit HaHadasha,” that is Sons of the New Covenant or Sons of the New Testament, he has named the construction project “Diglei Habrit,” or Flags of the Covenant.
Mount Precipice – known in Hebrew as Mount Kedumim - is believed to be the site referenced in Luke 4:29 when Jesus was rejected in Nazareth and was taken to the edge of the mountain in order to be thrown off.
Shlayan told the Jerusalem Post that he met last month with Tourism Minister Uzi Landau who told him, “Start it, and we will bless it.”
He said that some Muslims and Jews are opposed to his plan which he is calling “a symbol of love and peace” and that some residents of Nazareth say they would prefer to see a statue of the Muslim mayor Ali Sallam than one of Jesus.
“People who are against it, it comes from jealousy,” the Christian entrepreneur said.
To make his vision a reality, Shlayan said that he is looking for the help not only of the Israeli government but also international Christian groups.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics' 2009 census, 69 percent of the population of Nazareth is Muslim while 30.9 percent is Christian.