There’s a controversy in Israel. Well, there are several controversies in Israel. But there is one very important site for Christians that holds a bit of controversy: Where was Jesus baptized? The interesting thing is that we do know where it happened, but for years, Christians were told it was somewhere else. Curious? Keep reading.
Wait, there’s more than one baptismal site?
Well, yes there is. For many years (and sometimes still), Christian tourists were directed to a place called Yardenit at the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. That’s because the actual site in the West Bank, Qasr El-Yahud, was an inaccessible Jordanian military zone. It was literally in the middle of a mine field, making it completely unsafe for tourists.
The misdirection wasn’t intended to be deceptive so much as protective. Christians wanted to see where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, but it was far too dangerous. So they came up with the site in the Galilee region, where Christians were already visiting anyway, because Jesus lived and did so many of his miracles there. It made sense, and it kept the tourists safe.
Today, however, the landmines near the site have been cleared enough that is it perfectly safe to visit. In fact, it’s a great site to include with a day trip that includes Jericho, Masada, the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, etc.
How can I get to Qasr El-Yahud?
This site is in the West Bank, but it is accessible by car (not Israel-licensed rental car). Many tour buses make the trip out here as well. Public buses (961, 966, and 967) all come within 3.5 miles of the site, but you’ll still need transportation to get to the actual Qasr El-Yahud site. It’s best to go with a tour guide who is also a driver so you don’t need to deal with the logistics.
Can I get baptized there?
Yes, you can. Many Christians choose to be baptized, or even re-baptized here. Those who choose to can rent white baptismal clothes from the gift shop and visitor center at the site.
Is this site only for Christians?
Actually, this site just so happens to be an important one in Jewish history as well. According to Joshua 3, this is the site where the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land of Israel after wandering in the desert for 40 years. Many see Jesus’ baptism here as symbolic for that reason.
Can I cross over to the Jordanian side?
Well, yes, but you can’t get there from here. There are three designated crossing points for the Israeli-Jordanian border, none of which is here. You’ll have to cross by land or air (from TLV to AMM), as crossing the Jordan River is prohibited the entire length of the border.
Is Qasr El-Yahud on your must-see list of places to go on your trip to Israel?