Netanyahu to Chilean miners: welcome, come back for the barmitzvah

Benjamin Netanyahu has praised the Chilean miners for their “strength and faith” during their time trapped below the desert as they came to the end of a week - long trip around Israel.

The Israeli Prime Minister also invited the South Americans back in 13 years' time to mark the “barmitzvah” of one of the miners’ sons, who earlier this week was baptised in the Jordan River.

The miners have visited Christian sites in the country including the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret ) and the Church of the Visitation in the Ein Kerem area of Jerusalem.

They also went to Holocaust memorial museum Yad Vashem, the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

Mr Netanyahu told the miners while the Dead Sea was known as the lowest place on earth, their ordeal had put them “in the lowest place in the world”.

He said: “The entire world watched you and expected that you would be saved. It almost did not happen.”

Referring to the rescue of hostages at Entebbe, Uganda, in 1973, he said: “I remember several similar events in my life when the whole world watched and wanted to see people be saved and succeed in returning.”

Mr Netanyahu added: “They say that the Jewish people live against all probabilities; the Jewish people has succeeded in overcoming all the rules of history.

“You succeeded – against all odds and all assessments – in emerging forth. We hold you in the highest regard.“

The free trip for the miners and their partners was offered by Israel’s tourism minister immediately after the 33 men were rescued from beneath the Atacama Desert.

Last updated: 4:26pm, March 3 2011