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Bethany beyond the Jordan

John the Baptist's Spring,  Bethany beyond the Jordan
John the Baptist's Spring
Trees at Bethany, Jordan
The local trees are very thin leafed
Bethany beyond the Jordan
Our guide shows the way

Bethany is sited in a marshy area on the east bank of the River Jordan, 8km north of the Dead Sea is said to be where John the Baptist baptised Jesus Christ. As a non-Christian I did not find Bethany at all spiritual,

but there was interesting flora, fauna and geology. Security is high as the border is very near. The six square kilometre Baptism Site is surrounded by a high wire fence and watch towers are visible.

The first place we visited at Bethany was John the Baptist's Spring, mentioned by pilgrims as having "sweet, clear-flowing water", but it was dry when we were there.

The next port of call was some hermit's caves, and notably the cave where John the Baptist is supposed to have inhabited. It is high up, so would have been dry and safe from animals, but four-star it isn't.

Paw prints in Jordan
Animal footprints in the mud
Cave of John the Baptist
John the Baptist's cave is . . .
Inside John the Baptist's cave
. . . rather basic

A short walk took us to the site of the actual baptism of Jesus. I am not sure what I expected, but it was an anticlimax. A dusty hole in the ground. There is not even any water in it, the river having long ago changed course. Afterwards we went into a lovely modern Orthodox church with a golden dome on the top.

The site where John the Baptist baptised Jesus
The baptism site itself is still being excavated
Orthodox church at Bethany, Jordan
The golden dome of this church glows in the sunlight

So where do people get baptised at Bethany now? We were taken to a site beside the river which has a font with river water in it, and a small platform for those who prefer to dip in the Jordan itself. As you can see from the pictures the River Jordan is no longer "deep and wide".

Modern site of baptism, Bethany, Jordan
Entrance to the modern baptism site
Bethany beyond the Jordan
Take a dip here
The Jordan River
The River Jordan's narrow and muddy

Finally, we saw various ruins and the spot where the Pope John-Paul II visited Bethany in 2000, but by this time my eyes were glazing over. In short, this site is interesting, but unless you are religious it may not be worth the effort.

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More about Bethany from Iraeli guide Daniel Herman


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