Baptismal Site on the Jordan River — Qasr al-Yahud
The baptismal site on the banks of the Jordan River, Qasr al-Yahud, is the site where according to tradition, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist
Christian tradition marks this site as the place of the “spiritual birth” of Jesus, as opposed to his physical birth in Bethlehem. As such, the baptismal site is of great sacred significance — the third holiest site in the Christian world (after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem).
Points of interest
Land of the Monasteries
Monasteries and churches were first established in the area to commemorate the site of Jesus’ baptism as far back as the Byzantine period. When pilgrimage conditions became difficult, particularly under Muslim rule, the monasteries became places of refuge and protection for pilgrims. But when the custom of baptism in the Jordan River began to be limited to the Eastern Church, and the Turkish authorities took pilgrimage to the Jordan and baptismal ceremonies under their aegis, those monasteries, in which conditions were very harsh, were no longer needed and they were gradually abandoned.
During the British Mandate, when conditions once again became secure in the region with the coming of the great powers to the Holy Land, tourism to Jericho and the baptismal site were renewed, leading to the construction of new monasteries at the site.
A number of churches, chapels and monasteries belonging to various denominations extend along a 3 km stretch south of the baptismal site. In 1956, an earthquake severely damaged the buildings. Due to the security situation, access to the area became difficult not only for pilgrims, but for the monks themselves, who gradually abandoned them. The abandoned and neglected buildings themselves are currently inaccessible due to fear of landmines.
Renewal of baptismal ceremonies
Baptismal ceremonies at the site were renewed in the 1980s following a request from the Greek Orthodox Patriarch to the Judea and Samaria Civil Administration. Greek Orthodox pilgrims were the first to renew baptismal rites at the site, followed gradually by the Franciscan, Coptic, Syraic, Romanian, Russian and Ethiopian churches. The ceremonies take place in coordination with the Civil Administrations officer for religions and churches and in coordination with the army, and they take place on two main dates: Easter (in April, according to the denomination’s religious calendar), and on the celebration of the Epiphany in January, according to the denomination’s religious calendar.
The site is located on the western bank of the Jordan River, about 10 km east of Jericho.
According to various traditions, the site is also believed to be the place where the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River and entered the Holy Land after their 40 years of wandering in the desert. It is here that: “as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” (Josh 3:13)
Another event attributed to this site is Elijah’s ascension to heaven in a fiery chariot after he and Elisha crossed the Jordan: “Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.” (2 Kings 2:8)
Until 1967 this site, under Jordanian control, saw visits by masses of tourists and pilgrims. In 1968 access to the site was prohibited because of its location beyond the border fence in a closed military zone. Yardenit, south of the Sea of Galilee, was subsequently created as an alternative site for baptism.
How to get there:
The site is located north of the Dead Sea
Take road 1 east to the junction with the Jericho detour road (road 90)
At the junction, turn north onto road 90 and drive about 5 km to the turnoff eastward where the sign says Qasr al-Yahud
Length of tour: About 1 hour
Best season: year-round
Don’t miss: Visit the Deir Hijleh Monastery — an active desert monastery
Air-conditioned shop with cold drinks, ice-cream and special souvenirs
Other attractions: Toilets, prayer chapel, seating with a view of the Jordan River, service center for visitors (shop)
Last entrance one hour before the above closing hour
from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.;
On Fridays and holiday eves site is open from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M.
from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M.;
On Fridays and holiday eves site is open from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M.
To reserve guided tours for groups, call 02-6541255; firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax / Email: 02-6504853; email@example.com
Free Entrance fees