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October 25, 2011October 25, 2011  0 comments  Events

The Friars of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land will embark on their annual pilgrimage to the baptism site of Qasr El Yahud, located on the Jordan River on October 27, 2011. Parish priests, community members and other friars accompanied by hundreds of pilgrims and local Christians will travel to Qasr El Yahud, considered by many to be the actual site where John the Baptist baptised Jesus prior to beginning his more public ministry.


After the 8:45 am procession and the subsequent mass, the Friars will continue their pilgrimage by visiting Mount Qarantal and  the Greek Orthodox Monastery situated there.


Mt. Temptation

Qarantal Monastary on the Mt. of Temptation  Photo courtesy: Travelujah


Qasr El Yahud is located in Area B, which is in the Palestinian Territories but under Israeli control. Both Israelis and Palestinians are free to travel to the area.


Since the Six Day War in 1967, the site had been a closed military zone, open to visitors only twice a year or by appointment. However, in the last few years the site has been opened for limited visitation, and under pre-arrangement with local authorities. After a significant redevelopment that was completed last summer, the Israel Ministry of Tourism officially changed the operating hours and Qasr El Yahud is now open to the public seven days a week.


Qasr El Yahud baptismal site

Qasr El Yahud on the Jordan River


Known in Arabic as Qasr al Yahud (castle of the Jews), the site is situated in the Jordan Valley, just outside of Jericho, approximately 40 minutes drive time from Jerusalem drive from Jerusalem.  Since the 4th century A.D. the site has been considered a holy site as attested to by archaeological findings of numerous byzantine churches, including mosaics, marble steps and a unique pool used for baptism.


All four gospels recall the story of Jesus coming to the Jordan to be baptized by John.


"These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing" (John 1:28). Jesus also stayed in the same "Bethany beyond the Jordan" a baptsimal on the Jordanian side of the river (not to be confused with Bethany on the Mount of Olives), when he later fled persecution in Jerusalem (John 10:40).


The site is also interesting in that it is indirectly related to several other bible stories.  Qasr El Yahud is proximate to Jericho - notable for being the city to which the Israelites arrived after crossing from Jordan to Canaan. In fact, in order to safely do so, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. Further, the site is also mentioned in the story of the prophet Elijah, who needed to cross the Jordan on dry ground with Elisha before he was taken up to heaven on a chariot of fire.


The site is quite significant in that by  beginning his new ministry with his symbolic baptism at Qasr El Yahud, very close to the site where the Jewish people were first led into the promised land -  Jesus can be seen as a  "new Joshua".  In fact, the two names Yeshua and Yehoshua, are in hebrew  quite similar. For many Christians seeking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, visiting Qasr El Yahud and being baptised at this site are considered a profoundly unique spiritual experience.


SideBar - visiting Qasr El Yahud


Although there are no regularly scheduled day tours to Qasr El Yahud,  tourists seeking to visit the site can travel thereeither independently with a rental carinsured for travel into the Palestinian Territories. Alternatively, tourists can arrange for a private day tour or private driver/taxi that will include the site.


As of July 12, 2011 Qasr El Yahud is  open daily to all visitors. For information (from Israel) dial 02 650-4844 fax: 02-650-4843 or email ssark@npa.org.il


For additional information on visiting Qasr El Yahud or other sites and tours in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, please email info@travelujah.com


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