For those following in the footsteps of Jesus, you can now get baptized at the official Jesus baptism site, Qasr al-Yahud, on the Jordan River. The site is currently open only until May 22 (from 9am-3pm daily, free entry) but there is no longer a need to coordinate your visit in advance, despite its location in a closed military zone. The site is planned to be permanently open later in the year, once 7 million shekels worth of preservation work is finally complete.
Qasr al-Yahud is the original baptism site that was once teeming with tourists and Christian pilgrims. The 1967 Six Day War meant the site got cut off strategically and the more commonly known site on the Jordan River, known as Yardenit, next to the Sea of Galilee, was started as an alternative.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration were prompted to open up accessibility to Qasr al-Yahud due to the numbers of Christian pilgrims that accompanied Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land this past week. The Qasr al-Yahud site is the third most sacred place for Christians, after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. Christians believe that Jesus’ spiritual birth took place at Qasr al-Yahud, after his physical birth in Bethlehem.
How to get there: The site is located north of the Dead Sea. Take Highway 1 (East) to the Jericho bypass road, then turn north on 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 that says Qasr al-Yahud.
The clip below will give you an idea of what it’s like to be baptized in the Jordan River (at the alternative Yardenit site), close to the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.