When in Israel, one of the places you should visit is Yardenit, a baptismal site along the Jordan River in the Galilee region. Yardenit, which means “Little Jordan” is Hebrew, is visited by hundreds and thousands of tourists each year. They come not just to enjoy the scenery, but also to be baptized.
According to Christian tradition, John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17) in Qasr el Yahud, located north of the Dead Sea and east of Jericho. For many centuries, Qasr el Yahud was the most important site for baptizing the pilgrims. As a result, monasteries, guest houses, and other amenities for the pilgrims were built around the site.
Following the end of the Six Day War in 1967, Qasr el Yahud fell under Israeli control. Because of several military activity and excavations, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism decided to establish an alternative baptismal site, Yardenit, in 1981. Yardenit became the first regulated baptismal site on the Israeli side of the Jordan River. Qasr el Yahud opened for the public again in 2011.
Since its establishment and opening, Yardenit has been visited by about 400,000 tourists and pilgrims each year. Not only the Christian faithful visit Yardenit, but also people of other faiths.
What are the things to know and consider before being baptized on the Jordan River?
Yardenit currently has twelve individual baptismal pools, allowing different religious groups and denominations to comfortably and peacefully conduct their own baptismal ceremonies.
If one of your plans of going to Israel is to be baptized in Yardenit on the Jordan River, you must read the following important considerations:
1. The best time to go to Yardenit
Spring and summer (around May until mid-October) are the best seasons for baptism in Yardenit. If you want to avoid crowds, you should go there on Sunday to Thursday. Please check Yardenit’s official website for operation hours – they may change without prior notice.
The Israel Health Ministry regularly monitors the condition of the river water to make sure it is safe for baptizing all year round.
2. The essential items to bring to Yardenit
Being a heavily visited tourist site, Yardenit offers a wide variety of amenities from towels and robes for rent (or for purchase) to shower and dressing rooms. It’s necessary to bring your own shower items and toiletries. All guests are required to change their clothes in changing facilities. Baptismal kits are also offered for rent or for purchase. There are also restaurants and eateries on the premises, but you can also bring your own food and water especially if you have any diet specifications. Bring your camera or smartphone with camera (you are most likely to have the latter, as almost everyone else owns a smartphone). It’s certain that you’ll go to the water, so don’t forget to protect your gadgets with water-proof or water-resistant casings.
You can also have the option to purchase a DVD of your own baptismal ceremony as a souvenir. Baptisms are only permitted while wearing special white robes, which can be rented or purchased on the site. If you are wearing a swimsuit, you should wear a robe under it.
3. Want a pastor to baptize you?
Unfortunately, there is no resident pastor in Yardenit. However, you may contact the premises in advance and they can arrange for a pastor according to your specific requirements and denomination. The great thing about this service is that it’s for free as pastors do not charge for conducting baptismal ceremonies. However, it would be nice if you make some donations directly to the pastor as courtesy.
4. Other things to see and do in and around Yardenit
The “Wall of Life” is a project that runs along the banks of the Jordan River up to the baptismal site itself. It is Yardenit’s unique project that aims to celebrate the diversity of cultures. The “Wall of Life” has 85 panels, and each panel is inscribed in different languages or dialects, and represents a different community from countries around the world.
The Olive Grove is also worth an investigation. It gives visitors the opportunity to plant a tree on the banks of the Jordan River as a symbol of peace, goodwill, and dedication to the Land of Israel.
Around Yardenit there are many other places for the pilgrims to visit. Also around the Sea of Galilee you can visit other holy sites such as Tabgha, Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes.
If you plan to spend the area for the whole day, you can also visit the Sea of Galilee or Tiberias nearby. There are plenty of sites to see which makes your visit truly unforgettable.