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The Jordan River flows through the Jordan Rift Valley into the Kinneret
and then continues down into the Dead Sea with no outlet. It is a place
of many important biblical events. However, for most Christians the
first association with the river would be the scene of Jesus Christ
being baptized by John the Baptist.
According to the Christian
faith, the Jordan River is considered the third most holy site in the
Holy Land, just after Nativity Grotto in Bethlehem and Golgotha in
Jerusalem, because it is the site of the most important event of Jesus’
life - his baptism and beginning of his ministry.
was John the Baptist who decided to baptize people in the Jordan River.
Many scholars think that he might have been influenced by the Essens,
who like John, were leading an ascetic life in the wilderness of Qumran
or EinGedi. One of their principal religious rituals was a daily
immersion in water to regain purity.
The Jordan River represented a perfect mikva of continuously running water.
is also commonly referred to be a precursor of Jesus, and the Gospel of
Matthew describes him as the person mentioned by Isaiah in his
prophecy: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way
for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Isaiah 40:3) John also
announced that Christ - the Messiah is coming, with the words: “I
baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is
more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will
baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt. 3:11)
Jesus’ Baptism and its meaning
was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Baptism with
water, practiced since the beginning of the Church, represents admission
into the Christian community and is essential for salvation. "Truly,
truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he
cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." (John 3:5) In Christianity,
baptism is a sign of “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4) and
the beginning of the life in Christ within the Church. Christians are
baptized in the name God: “Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit”
(Matt. 28:19). As well, through baptism Christians associate with the
death, burial and resurrection of Jesus: “And this water symbolizes
baptism that now saves you […] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1
Different Christian denominations have various
baptismal practices. Orthodox and Catholic Christians receive the
sacrament when still infants. The Catholic baptism is done by effusion,
meaning pouring water over someone’s head.
However, according to
the rituals of the Orthodox and some other Eastern Churches, a baby
would be completely submersed in water. Within the Anabaptist (baptised
again) and Baptist practices, a person would receive baptism as an adult
in order to understand the significance and be aware of accepting
Christ as a Saviour.
Site of Jesus’ Baptism - Qasr el Yahud
el Yahud, one of the most important sites for Christian pilgrims
visiting the Holy Land, is identified as the traditional site of Jesus’
baptism. The place is located in the wilderness of the Jordan River
Valley, north of the Dead Sea and east of Jericho. Remains of a
Byzantine church from the 4-5th century, still visible on the site,
point to the ancient tradition associate with this site.
be baptized in the same place where Jesus was baptized, is a uniquely
spiritual moment for the Christian believer. Qasr el Yahud is furnished
with facilities required to assist visiting pilgrims and enhance their
experience. There are on site showers, facilities for prayer, wheelchair
access and improved car parking. Baptismal robes are available for NIS
The Baptism of the Lord Celebration is a feast commemorating
the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by the John the Baptist. In the
Holy Land, this event takes place at Qasr el Yahud.
the Catholic Church’s tradition, the holiday is celebrated on the first
Sunday after the feast of Epiphany. This year, Catholics will make a
pilgrimage to the site on January 13 and hold a mass in a chapel on the
January 18 and 19 will mark the Feast of Theophany,
which for the Eastern Churches denotes Christ’s baptism and first
revelation as the Son of God and the revelation of the Holy Trinity. On
the morning of January 18 a procession of Eastern Orthodox clergy and
pilgrims would follow down to the river bank, where the celebration will
be held. The Patriarch, by submerging the cross in the river will
purify and consecrate its water, which then shall be sprinkled on the
crowds of faithful. In the afternoon the Ethiopian Orthodox Church will
celebrate the Baptism at the site. On the morning of January 19, the
baptismal celebrations will be held by the Coptic Orthodox and the
Syrian Orthodox Churches.
are other biblical events also associated with Qasr el Yahud. Joshua,
while leading the Israelites crossed the Jordan River there, and entered
the Land of Canaan (Joshua 3). In addition, Elijah the Prophet ascended
to heaven on a fiery chariot (2 Kings 11) at the site of Qasr el Yahud.
el Yahud is just north of the Dead Sea. If driving from Jerusalem, take
the Route 1 towards Jericho’s bypass road, then turn north on the Route
90, drive approximately 2.5 km until you reach a grove, and then turn
east in the direction of a sign saying Qasr al-Yahud. Currently, there
is no public transportation which goes exactly to the site. Hiring a
taxi driver or a private tour could be an option.
hours:Qasr el Yahud is open daily from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. in the summer
and till 4 p.m. during the winter, except on Fridays from 8 a.m. till 3
p.m. (summer) or till 2 p.m. (winter). There is no entry fee. Pilgrims
are advised to call before visiting on (02) 650-4844.
pilgrims come to the Holy Land especially to be baptized in the Jordan
River, thus the site of Yardenit was established in 1981 as a result of
the closing of Qasr el Yahud, which occurred at the time due to the
unstable political situation in the region. This picturesque baptismal
site, located south of the Jordan River's outlet from the Sea of
Galilee, welcomes everyone who would like to walk in the footsteps of
Jesus and follow Jesus’s life by experiencing the baptismal waters.
Wall of New Life” is Yardenit’s special feature that consists of panels
in multiple languages that portray a verse from Mark describing the
baptism of Jesus. "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and
was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of water,
immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him
like a dove, and a voice came from heaven; "Thou art my beloved Son,
with thee I am well pleased." (Mark 1:9-11) “The Wall of New Life” is
dedicated to all who have received baptism at this place, and symbolizes
the beginning of their new life.
site can accommodate several groups of pilgrims at once and at the
site’s gift shop one can either rent or buy a white baptismal robe and a
towel. In addition, there are spacious change facilities with showers
How to get there: If driving a car, follow the signs
leading to the Yardenit baptismal site along the road between Tiberias
city and the Tzemach junction to its east. If you are thinking to take a
public transportation from Jerusalem, Egged bus 961, which continues to
Yardenit, leaves from Jerusalem Central Bus Station at 2:15 pm and 3:15
pm. After 2 hours and 35 minutes on the way, go off at the bus stop
next to Ezori Beit Yerah School and then walk south around 250 meters.
hours:March - November: Sun. – Thur. from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. and on
Friday from 8 a.m. till 4 p.m. December – February: Sun. – Thur. from 8
a.m. till 5 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m. till 4 p.m. Call on (04)
675-9111 to check site’s opening hours around the major Jewish holidays.
There is no entry fee.
Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.