The traditional site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus has been closed for more than four decades. In the past few years pilgrims and tourists have been able to visit the site known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan from the Jordanian side of the Jordan River.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. (Mark 1:9 ESV)
These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:28 ESV)
Now word comes, after a year’s delay, that the site will open on the Israeli side.
Kasr al-Yehud, the probable site where John the Baptist baptized his cousin Jesus of Nazareth, will be opened to the public with a special ceremony on January 18 after 42 years as a closed military zone which pilgrims could only visit after coordinating with the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria. The site is located in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, but starting on the 18th it will be operated by the jurisdiction of the Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, after Israeli authorities invested millions of shekels to build facilities there to handle a large number of tourists. The 18th is significant because it is the traditional day when Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians make an annual pilgrimage to the site to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, who was instrumental in the project, said he hoped Kasr al-Yehud would become a symbol for cooperation among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, as it would be a major attraction for tourists who would also want to visit other Biblical sites in the area. (ICEJ news)
Last May my group visited the Jordan River at the Jordanian site that is suggested as Bethany beyond the Jordan. Construction of a visitor’s center on the Israeli side seemed to be almost finished. That day a group, perhaps mostly military, was at the site, but it was not open to the general public. You can see workers on the steps leading down to the water.
The Israeli visitor’s center is actually in the West Bank, but under Israeli control.
My first trip to the Bible Lands was in April and May of 1967. At that time the western side of the Jordan River was open to tourists. Of course, the site was still in Jordan at the time. Take a look at my group of 19 tour members. It is true that in those days most of the men wore suits, dress shirts and ties, even in the hot weather. The women wore dressy clothes, hosiery and other feminine attire no longer in use.
Just a flash from the past. Take a look at the old photo made on the western bank of the Jordan.
Did you notice those purses the women are carrying? In those days that was allowed as a carry-on on the airplanes. Many of the men carried a camera bag of similar size. That was it. No rolling suitcases. Oh, for the good ole days.
HT: BiblePlaces Blog.