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March 19, 2012March 19, 2012  2 comments  History

All at once tragic, beautiful and a symbol of both pure evil and pure goodness, Naharyim is a tiny strip of land situated between the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers which is a must see on any visit to the northern part of the Land of Israel. The little strip of land is often referred to as the island of peace because it sits smack dab between Jordan and Israel.

 

NAHARAYIM

Naharayim by the Jordan river; Photo courtesy Travelujah

 

The area was under Israeli control until the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in 1994 and Israel ceded the area to Jordan. However, in a twist worthy of King Solomon, the Jordanians agreed to lease it back to the Israelis so that the Israeli residents there could continue to cultivate the land.

 

The History

 

Naharyim, which means "two rivers," since the area is located right between the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers, first came to prominence when Pinchas Rothenberg under the British Mandatory authorities,  built a power plant in the area in 1934. The plant provided electrical power to both the future Kingdom of Jordan and to the future State of Israel; however, it was destroyed in 1948 during fierce fighting between Jewish forces and invading Arab armies.

 

Israel eventually took control of the area and it became an extension of the nearby Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'acov. The members of the Kibbutz worked the land and the area was fairly unremarkable, save for the occasional visit of families or school groups enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

 

In 1994 however, the land became the spotlight of international fame when it was ceded to the Jordanians in a peace treaty signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Jordanian King Hussein. Naharayim was then nicknamed the "island of peace" because of the extraordinary arrangement reached between the two nations, whereby Israeli citizens could continue to visit on the land while Jordan would hold technical sovereignty.

 

island of peace

Island of Peace; Photo courtesy Travelujah-Holy Land Tours

 

The Tragedy

 

The tragedy of Naharayim occurred 3 years after the land was ceded to the Jordanians. A group of Israeli schoolchildren were visiting the land and receiving a lecture from their teacher about how the area was a symbol of peace when the unimaginable happened -- a Jordanian soldier of Palestinian descent opened fire on the school girls, killing seven before he could be subdued.

 

memorial at Naharayim

Memorial located at Naharayim; photo courtesy Travelujah-Holy Land Tours

 

Out of this tragic event however, grew closer ties with the Kingdom of Jordan when the late King Hussein made an unprecedented visit to Israel to personally apologize to the families of the children and to offer his condolences.

 

If you go

 

Today, visits to Naharayim must be arranged through Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'akov and security arrangements have been put in place to ensure that no tragedy like the one with the school girls is ever allowed to occur again.


http://www.ashdot-naharayim.co.il/
Tel:  04-6709143 
fax:  04-6751777
Ofer-050-7222787
email:  info@ashdot-naharayim.com


 

The Power Plant - Experience Mesopotamia Bridge, Tourism site of Kibbutz Gesher

 

A visit to the area is not complete without visit the Mesopotamia bridge at Kibbutz Gesher and seeing the working model of the power plant,  rebuilt in a small scale model to demonstrate what it once was like. The model is intended only as a demonstration and not a practical electrical generation plant.

 

There is also a light and sound "show" which is put on as part of the experience which is perfect both for children and adults visiting the area to get a better idea of what it was like to be there when the power plant operated. There is a visitors "trail" which will allow you to see the old dams and bridges along with the turbine room so that you can see all the details of what the working power plant was like.


Mesopotamia bridge experience
http://www.naharayim.co.il/
04-6752685 / 04-6753336 Tel
04-6709387 Fax
nfo@naharayim.co.il

 

Don't Forget the Views

 

Of course, the real treat here isn't the power plant but simply the breath taking views -- Naharayim boasts a beautiful boardwalk from which the three bridges in the area and the banks of both the Jordan and Yarmuk river can be seen (along with both the border of the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan).

 

Other Sites

 

Other things to see include the museum of the Israeli war of Independence, in which Kibbutz Gesher took a central part and the memorial to the seven young victims of the 1997 tragedy.

 

In addition to these, be sure to ask your guide about things to see in Kibbutz Gesher itself as well as about nearby Bet Shean, an ancient city which existed at the time of Jesus where a number of archeological digs have been found which show what life was like at the time of the Roman occupation and the birth of Christianity.

 

The Crusader fortress of Belvoir is situated closeby as well and is a worthwhile visit. The reconstructed fortress is the most complete Crusader fortress in the country and the only one that has been completedly excavated. The pentagonal fortress has a 20-meter wide, 12-meter-deep moat surrounding it and also surrounds a stronghold tower (donjon). Phone 04-6581766 for more information or click here.

 

Where to Stay

 

Kibbutz Ashdot Yaacov offers a number of well appointed guest rooms that are perfect for individuals traveling on their own as well as larger group stays. The kibbutz is located in the Jordan Valley region, 5 minutes from Sea of Galilee, 15 minutes drive from Tiberias and Hammat-Gader, and it is an excellent vantage point for touring all over the North of Israel, The Galilee and Golan Heights, Beit Shean Valley as well as the main Christian shrines, including the Yardenit Baptismal site. Numerous recreational activities are available nearby including birdwatching, mountain trekking, biking and more.

 

Guest room at Ashdot Yaakov

Guest room at Nehara guesthouse -  Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov; photo courtesy Travelujah-Holy Land tours

 

The guesthouse includes a total of 43 rooms, 32 of which are designed for 2 people and 11 are family units. The guesthouse is managed by Yonatan Alter, one of the most well regarded figures in Israel's hospitality industry. Yonatan will organize agricultural tours to the date farms and  to the nearby Naharayim center and Island of Peace, along with other nearby attractions. For additional information regarding special events at Ashdot Yaakov contact Yonatan@nehara.co.il

 

For further information on Christian tourism and Holy Land tours please contact Travelujah at info@travelujah.com.

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Eric Hammer and Elisa Moed for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

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January 23, 2011January 23, 2011  0 comments  Events

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and [John the Baptist] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on [Jesus]. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17)

 

The Feast of the Epiphany (January 6 on the Julian calendar) is the third most important day on the calendar behind Passover and Pentecost for the Eastern Orthodox churches, and it is little wonder why.

 

Also known as the Theophany - manifestation of the divine - the Feast of the Epiphany marks that moment in scripture that birthed Christian faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah. It is also the foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity.

 

Just as Christian pilgrims have been doing for nearly two thousand years, the Feast of the Epiphany begins with a short journey from Jerusalem to the Jordan River. Even the route is identical, following the same natural pathway down through the mountains of Judah into the Judean wilderness and up to the banks of that sacred stream.

 

pilgrims at the Epiphany ceremony at Qasr El Yahud

PIlgrims at the Epiphany ceremony at Qasr El Yahud, on the Jordan River

Today, we are able to make the journey in about half-an-hour aboard comfortable passenger buses to Qasr El Yahud, the site many believe to be the authentic site where John baptised Jesus. But for much of Christian history, the trip took a bit longer, and often required an overnight stop along the way, and so it would be negligent to fail to mention that most famous of way stations, the Inn of the Good Samaritan. Situated just off the road from Jerusalem to the Jordan, the Inn of the Good Samaritan served Christian pilgrims journeying to the place of Jesus' baptism for centuries.

 

The inn has today been transformed into a fascinating museum featuring mosaic floors found among the ruins of ancient synagogues and churches from across Judea and Samaria, the areas most commonly known as the West Bank. In its current capacity, the Inn of the Good Samaritan is a powerful reminder of the religious history permeating the entire area.

 

Mosaic at the Museum of the Good Samaritan

Mosaic on display at the Museum of the Good Samaritan

 

And the Inn of the Good Samaritan is not the only such reminder. Israel Parks Authority guide,Yoav Hermoni, explained that the Judean wilderness is a localized desert, meaning it is very small and far more abundant in natural resources than larger, more desolate deserts. What that means is that the Judean wilderness is the perfect location for monasteries - both in a natural and religious sense - and there are indeed many of them dotting the landscape.

 

Upon arriving at Jordan, pilgrims must wait upon the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem to start the event, but there is no lack of activity in the interim. The atmosphere is festive, to say the least, but also very solemn.

 

"I am very happy to be here," said Masha, a pious young pilgrim from Moscow who was clearly overwhelmed by the gravity of the event. Stylianos from Thessalonika, Greece didn't speak much English, but expressed a similar gratitude at being able to participate in ceremony.

 

Qasr al-Yahud, the Arabic name for the location, was identified nearly 1,700 years ago by Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, as the place not only where Jesus was baptized, but also where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Hence the Arabic name, which means "the Jews' cutting [of the river]."

 

Both the eastern and western sides of the river have seen development by Jordan and Israel, respectively, and today boast ample facilities for visiting pilgrims.

Following a lengthy, but much anticipated procession from the nearby Monastery of John the Baptist, the Greek patriarch pronounces a series of blessings at a small chapel near the river and then proceeds to the water line.

 

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Theopolous

At the river, the patriarch conducted a short ritual that centered around the releasing of three doves signifying the revelation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

Release of the doves during Epiphany

While the Jordan is very cold this time of year, that didn't stop many pilgrims and priests from washing their feet, hands and heads in its holy waters following the ceremony.

 

Ultimately, the Feast of the Epiphany is a brief event, but also a very important one. Significant enough for 20,000 Christian pilgrims to make their way to the Jordan River, most of them arriving from abroad.

 

Lydia Weitzman, Foreign Press Adviser for Israel's Ministry of Tourism, said there has been a strong effort to return the focus on Israel and the surrounding areas to that of the Holy Land. She said that while Israel has the same great weather and beaches as Cyprus and other eastern Mediterranean destinations, it offers so much more.

 

That strategy appears to be paying off. This past year saw a significant rise in tourism to Israel, and 69 percent of all visitors were Christians, most of whom consider themselves pilgrims. Of all tourists, Catholics come in the most significant numbers, totaling 39% of all tourists to Israel. And visiting Qasr al-Yahud and the Inn of the Good Samaritan demonstrates that there is a real commitment to adequately accommodate those Christian pilgrims and ensure that their journey is a meaningful and spiritual one.

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Ryan Jones writes for www.travelujah.com, the leading Christian social network focused on Holy land tours. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


January 10, 2013January 10, 2013  0 comments  Historical Sites

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.” (Matt.3:3)

The Jordan River flows through the Jordan Rift Valley into the Sea of the Galilee and then continues down into the Dead Sea with no outlet. It is a place of many important biblical events. However, for most of 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.

Jordan River Baptism Travelujah

John the Baptist

It 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 Ein Gedi. One of their principal religious rituals was a daily immersion tvilah in water mikvah to regain purity. Jordan river represented a perfect mikvah of continuously running water.

John 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)

Jordan River Baptism Travelujah

Jesus’ Baptism and Its Meaning

Christ was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. 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 alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16-17) This event marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

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. We 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 Peter 3:21)

Different Christian denominations have various baptismal practices. Orthodox and Catholic Christians are receiving 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

Qasr 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.

Jordan River Baptism Travelujah

To 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 purchase for $10 (35 IL).

Baptism of the Lord Celebration

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.

According to the Catholic Church’s tradition, the holiday is celebrated always on the first Sunday after the feast of Epiphany. This year 2013, Catholics will make a pilgrimage to the site on the 13th of January and hold a mass in a chapel on the riverbank.

The 18th and 19th of January 2013 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 the 18th of January 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 the 19th of January, the baptismal celebrations will be held by the Coptic Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox Churches.

Jordan River Baptism Travelujah

Other Biblical Events Connected to Qasr el Yahud

There are other biblical events also associated with Qasr el Yahud. Joshua, leading the Israelites crossed there the Jordan River, and entered the Land of Canaan (Joshua 3). In additiona, Elijah the Propet ascended to heaven on a fiery chariot (2 Kings 11) at the site of Qasr el Yahud.

How to get there: Qasr el Yahud is just north of the Dead Sea. If driving from Jerusalem, take the highway #1 towards Jericho’s bypass road, then turn north on the highway #90, drive approximately 2.5 km (1.5 miles) 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.

Opening hours: Qasr el Yahud is open daily from 8 am till 5 pm in the summer and till 4 pm during the winter, except on Fridays from 8 am till 3 pm (summer) or till 2 pm (winter). There is no entry fee. Pilgrims are advised to call before visiting on (02) 650-4844.

Yardenit

Many pilgrims come to the Holy Land especially to be baptised 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.

Jordan River Baptism Travelujah

'The 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.

Jordan River Baptism Travelujah

The 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 and toilets.

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 transportantion 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.

Opening hours:

March - November: Sun. – Thur. from 8 am till 6 pm and on Friday from 8 am till 4 pm. December – February: Sun. – Thur. from 8 am till 5 pm and on Friday from 8 am till 4 pm. Call on (04) 675-9111 to check site’s opening hours around the major Jewish holidays. There is no entry fee.

Daily Tours:

You can visit Qasr El Yahud on the Saturday weekly tour from Jerusalem called Qasr el Yahud and West Bank tour. Priced at 355 shekel per person (around $90). Alternatively you can visit with a private guide (and combine many other area sites as well, including Mt. Temptations, Jericho, Qumran, and the Dead Sea.

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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.

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