A group of prosperous Christian businessmen in Israel are planning to build the largest cross in the world in the boyhood town of Jesus Christ.
According to officials, the initial private building plan is already underway for the "Nazareth Cross," which will be 60 meters high and decorated by some 7.2 million mosaic tiles made of Nazareth stone.
The site will be an attempt to draw tourism to the struggling economy of Nazareth as well as pay homage to the early life of Christ.
"Nazareth is the starting point for Christian pilgrimage," write promoters on the project's website. "Here Gabriel proclaimed to the Virgin: 'Hail, highly favored one!' An estimated 300,000 pilgrims flock to Nazareth each year, in addition to the hundred thousand local visitors. They come to see this special place where Jesus spent most of His Life and from where He started His public ministry."
According to a statement on Sunday from Bashir Abdel-Razik, the deputy mayor of Nazareth, the building project has not been pitched to the city, however, and that officials have not OK'd the plans.
They worry about the surrounding Muslim population in Nazareth – which makes up two-thirds of its 74,000 residents – that may disagree with the cross. Its construction may cause unrest with the religious neighbors.
The city has been hit hard by the violence from the Muslim community in the past years, which has been cause for the economic decline of the Galilean village.
There has been significant tension between the Christians and Muslims living inside the city as well. A recent example was a six-year dispute over building an Islam mosque next to the Basilica – a holy site where it was believed that Gabrielle appeared to Mary.
Should the proposed cross get the go-ahead, it would be built next to the English Hospital in the ancient city.
Plans are still being worked on and may change in the coming weeks, but current plans show a church being built at the center of the cross with a five square-kilometer visitors center surrounding the construction.
A French architect is expected to arrive in Israel to discuss the project.
An NGO consisting of several different denominations is also backing the Nazareth Cross.