The southern section of the Jordan river near the Dead sea. A
traditional site of the Israelite crossing site to the Holy Land, Elijah's
departure, baptize of Jesus by John, and location of many monasteries and
John 1 28: "These things were done in Bethabara beyond
Jordan, where John was baptizing".
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The southern side of the
Jordan river, before it flows into the Dead Sea, is the Jericho
section. At this location, on the border between Israel and Jordan,
are a number of points of interest: the traditional site of
the crossing of the Jordan by the Israelites, the departure of
Elijah on a chariot of fire, the pilgrimage site of John's baptize
of Jesus, and many monasteries and chapels of various
Map / Aerial View:
The aerial map of the area is shown below, indicating
the major sites. The Jordan river flows between Israel (left side) and Jordan
(right side), in a winding. It is located at a height of -375m (under sea
level), 9KM east to Jericho, 7KM north of the Dead Sea. You can
point on the purple
points to navigate to the selected site.
According to some traditions, the
Israelites crossed the Jordan at this location on their return from the exile
in Egypt. The site is loacted "against Jericho" as described in the following
verses ( Joshua 3 9-17): "And Joshua said unto the children of Israel,
Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.... Behold, the ark of
the covenant of the LORD of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.
And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over
Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people;"
" And as they that bare the ark were come unto
Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim
of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)
That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very
far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down
toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and
the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare
the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of
Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people
were passed clean over Jordan".
Crossing of the Jordan - Drawing by Gustav Dore (French artist, 1832-1883)
Elijah departs on Chariot of fire -
Stella Maris, Carmel
|| Another Biblical event that
happened at this location was the departure of Elijah on the chariot of
fire, an event that occurred on the Jordan river near Jericho.
2 King 2: "...So they came to
Jericho... and they two stood by Jordan.... and Elijah went up by a
whirlwind into heaven".
A Roman road connected the
site to Jericho, and was part of the road systems that connected Jordan to
Israel. Traces of the road can be seen on the north side of the road from
According to Christian
tradition, the baptism site of Jesus by John was performed at this place.
3: 13): "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John";
(Matthew 3 16): "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of
the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God
descending like a dove and lighting on him";
(John 1 28):
"These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was
Since this event was a
turning point in Jesus life and eventually the birth of Christianity, this
site has an enormous importance for pilgrims and the church.
Painting in St. John Baharim,
During the Byzantine period, many
pilgrims flocked to the site to get blessed and visit the holy site. To
support this pilgrimage, a Byzantine Monastery was constructed in the 4th C AD
at a site overlooking the Jordan river, on the location of later St. John. The
monastery was destroyed after the fall of the Byzantine empire in the 7th-8th
During the Crusaders period
(12-13th C), the Christian pilgrimage resumed. The monastery of St John
was rebuilt (1128) on top of the earlier Byzantine structure.
A number of monasteries and
chapels were constructed near the baptism site in order to support the arrival
of a new wave of Christian pilgrims that flocked to the site starting at the
19th C. Almost every order which had presence in Jerusalem - Catholic, Coptic,
Russian, Ethiopian - had its own chapel built here.
The monastery of St John was
severely damaged in the earthquake of 1927 and repaired. In 1954 the structure
was expanded and rebuilt.
After the six-day
war (1967), Israel's border with Jordan passes along the Jordan. The area
around the baptismal site is located inside the military zone, and was out of
limit. Following the Pope's visit in 2000 the site was partially opened for
pilgrims. On Easter the site is also opened to the public for several days
under controlled restrictions.
On the Israeli
side, the army now allows pre-scheduled visits but accompanied with
soldiers. A new visitors center is built on the banks of the Jordan river, but
its opening is pending a mutual agreement with the Jordanians.
On the Jordanian
side ("Beitabara") the pilgrims can enter to the river side from the new
Greek-Orthodox church. Recently, four new monasteries and churches are in the
process of construction. Ancient baptism sites were excavated on the eastern
bank of the Jordan.
The bell tower of the Greek Orthodox church on the
eastern bank of the Jordan river is shown below. In the background
are the mountains of Jordan, where Moses remained to die before the
crossing of the returning Israelites to the Holy Land.
Click on the photos to view in higher
The photo below shows
another view of the area of baptism. On the right side, just along
the river, is the Golden cape of the Greek Orthodox church and its
bell tower. Behind it are new churches constructed on the Jordanian
side. In the center, a new visitor center constructed on the Israeli
side. On the bottom left side is a Franciscan chapel.
The photo below shows the Jordanian side of the
place of baptism.
In the photo below - the Golden cape of the Greek Orthodox church
(left) and its bell tower (right) are seen behind the baptism site.
The distance between the Jordanian side and the Israeli
side are a few meters, and only the narrow open river departs both
sides. Steps lead down to the river in order to allow the pilgrims
to immerse (be baptized) in the Holy waters.
The Jordan river at this location is very narrow and
its waters are muddy. After most of the river was cut off from its
sources and the outlet of the Jordan from the sea of Galilee was
blocked by a dam, the Jordan river became smaller and almost dry.
On the Israeli side is a new baptism center, which is currently
in use only in a few days a year.
The new modern baptism site, seen below, is planned
to be opened to the public after the security arrangements are
finalized with the Jordanians.
Monasteries and Chapels:
Around the baptism site,
on the Israeli side, are a number of small monasteries. These
monasteries are the lowest in the world: -375m (under sea
level), and serviced the different Christian orders. They are
located on the south-east side of Greek-Orthodox monastery of St
John. These structures include: a number of Franciscan Catholic
chapels (they are the closest to the river); a Syrian-Orthodox
church (south of the baptismal site); an Ethiopian (Abyssinian)
monastery (south of the site); a Coptic (Egyptian) monastery; a
Romanian church and a Russian chapel (the south most).
All of them are closed
and partially ruined. Due to past incidents, where terrorists
crossed the Jordan and hid inside these structures, the army
fenced them off and mined them.
The entrance to the Syrian
Orthodox monastery is seen below. Its apse - behind the cross - is
directed to the east as all churches.
The Ethiopian Abyssinian monastery is located on the south-east
side. The emblem posted on its north wall (detail is on the
right) is the crowned lion of Judah - an icon which
represents the Royal Ethiopian family and the emperor.
As seen below,
the monastery is damaged and sealed. It was hit by bullet holes
and mortar fire, fenced off by barbed wire, and mined (the
orange triangle on the yellow sign reads "Danger mines" in three
Franciscan Catholic chapels are located close to the
baptismal site. A small prayer chapel is located on the south side
of the compound, also mined.
Another larger Franciscan chapel is located close to the road to
This Greek-Orthodox church, located on a hill above
the baptismal site, is named after John the Baptist, who baptized
Jesus in the Jordan (Matthew
3: 13 : "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John").
The early Byzantine Monastery was constructed here
in the 4th C AD, but only few remains survived. During the Crusaders
period, the monastery was rebuilt (1128). It was damaged in the
earthquake of 1927 and repaired. In 1954 the structure was expanded
and rebuilt. Since 1967 the Monastery is closed.
The following picture is a view from the north side:
The west side is shown below, with a closer view of its bell
The rear entrance to the monastery, which looks like a fortress,
is shown below.
A detail of the tablet above the entrance is shown
initials ICXC NIKA stands for
"Jesus Christ conquers".
To the west of the site are large palm plantations. The
area around Jericho is famous for its palm trees and dates, and the
Bible always adds the suffix of "city of palms" to Jericho (for
example, Deuteronomy 34 3: ""And the south, and the plain of the valley of
Jericho, the city of palm trees").
Doron, a relative of webmaster Rotem who resides in the
Jordan valley settlement of Gitit, manages the palms plantation near
the entrance to the baptismal site. He - and his wife Adi -
coordinated our tours, and were proud to show this wonder of growing
trees in the dry and harsh wilderness.
This desert area is very
dry and hot, and the Jordan river is also practically dry due to the
heavy pumping upstream of the sources of the Jordan.
Therefore, the trees are watered by a special pump and filtration
The baptism of Jesus by John the
Baptist is described in Matthew (3:13-17), told briefly in Mark
(1:9-11), mentioned in Luke (3:21-22), and implied in John
(1:29-34). In these texts John performs an important ritual :
announcing that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah.
John 1: 28-34
"These things were done
in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next
day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of
God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I
said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was
before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest
to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare
record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove,
and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to
baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see
the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which
baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this
is the Son of God.."
Matthew 3: 13-17
" Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you
come to me?" Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this
to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was
baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and
he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And
a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well
"At that time Jesus came
from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus
was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit
descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my
Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And
as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in
bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I
love; with you I am well pleased."
2. Beit Abarah
According to KJV version of John, the place was called "Bethabara".
In Hebrew this may mean "the house of the crossing" of the river of Jordan.
There were many crossings along the river, and a probable place will be closer
to the Sea of Galilee.
Beth-Abara is referred in the old testament in conjunction
with the Jordan river, so it is very likely to be the same site. In the story
of the victory of Judge Gideon over the Midians (Judges 7: 24):
"And Gideon sent
messengers throughout all the hill-country of Ephraim, saying:
'Come down against Midian, and take before them the waters, as
far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. 'So all the
men of Ephraim were gathered together, and took the waters as
far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan."
3. Elijah's chariot of fire (2 Kings 2 4-15)
This text describes the departure of Elijah on the
chariot of fire, an event that occurred on the Jordan river near
"And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for
the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth,
and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to
Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to
Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away
thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it;
hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee,
here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD
liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two
went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood
to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his
mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were
divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry
ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah
said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken
away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion
of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing:
nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be
so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass,
as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a
chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder;
and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it,
and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the
horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his
own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle
of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank
of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and
smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and
when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither:
and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were
to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth
rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to
the ground before him.
Etymology - behind the name:
- Kaser (Qaser) El Yahud - Arabic: "The Jews'
palace". This refers to the St. John's Monastery, and also is
the name of the entire baptismal area. Why Jews? According to
tradition, this was the crossing place of the Israelites after
returning from the Egyptian exile.
- Baptism comes from Greek "Baptizo", which means to
“immerse". Baptism is based on old testament laws of ceremonial
washings, and is a custom also in current Jewish religion.
- Bethabara - In Hebrew this may mean "the house of
the crossing" of the river of Jordan.
BibleWalks.com - walks along the Jordan river
Jordan Valley site--->
>> Fazael brook