Friday, April 26, 2013

Traditional Site of Jesus' Baptism

We made a brief stop at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus. There is a small area for people to be baptized today, but the river here is quite small and muddy. There is an alternative baptism site more popular with tourists farther north near the Sea of Galilee. That's where we were baptized in the Jordan on our last trip to Israel -- an experience I'll never forget.

This site is near the city of Jericho and also a few miles away from where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea. It is in a stark, dry area in what we would call a demilitarized zone. There are fences keeping people from straying into an area with land mines. We did not stray! Directly across the Jordan River is the country of Jordan. You could throw a stone across the river and hit another country. But I wouldn't advise it -- there was a Jordanian guard on the other side who might not be so happy.

The Jordan River feeds the Sea of Galilee from the north, and then the river continues south to the Dead Sea.  The Sea of Galilee is used as the major source of drinking water for all of Israel, as well as for irrigation. As we noted when we visited the ruins of Bethsaida in the north, the Sea of Galilee has receded from its old banks. As a result, the Jordan River to the south of the Sea of Galilee is not as mighty as it used to be.

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