Israel Completes Upgrade of Christian Tourism Site

Editor’s Note:  Prior to June 1967, Israelis were barred from visiting Jewish holy places in Jerusalem and surrounding areas, including the Western Wall, that were not under Israeli control.  In contrast, Israel maintains an open policy of religious access and freedom, especially in Jerusalem, where the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf retains control of the Al -Aqsa Mosque.  By the way, the mosque sits on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, and visiting Jews are not allowed to openly pray there.  We wonder:  is it possible that a future Palestinian government tourism office will announce and encourage visitation to Jewish holy sites, for example, in Hebron?  Will they even allow it?

Site of Jesus’ Baptism Now Open Daily to Visitors and Pilgrims

Israel Completes Upgrade of Third Most Important Site For Christian Visitors to the Holy Land

Photo: Israel Ministry of Tourism

New York – July 14, 2011: After much investment in infrastructure to improve the spiritual experience and physical comfort of tourists and pilgrims, the Qasr el Yahud baptism site on the River Jordan, known as the place of Jesus’ baptism, is now open daily to the public.

Recognized since the 4th century as the site of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, Qasr el Yahud is considered the third most important site for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land (after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem). The site is revered as the place where, according to the New Testament, John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Matthew, 3: 13-17). The site is also considered to be the place where the Children of Israel crossed the River Jordan when they entered Canaan.

Because of the importance of the site, which is located on the road to Jericho from Jerusalem, many churches were built here over the centuries. Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, among others, has invested about $2.3 million in renovating and upgrading the site. Wooden ramps into the Jordan River now allow pilgrims easy and comfortable access to the waters for baptism; shaded areas have been erected for prayer sessions; and bathroom, shower and parking facilities have been upgraded. The site is also wheelchair-accessible. 2010 was the best year ever for tourism to Israel, and the first six months of 2011 indicate this year may break that record.

“We hope the redesigned infrastructure inspires a new wave of Christian pilgrims and travelers to visit the Holy Land this year,” says Haim Gutin, Israel Commissioner for Tourism, North and South America, “which is already on track to be the best year ever for tourism to Israel.”

The Qasr el Yahud baptism site is managed by the Israel Nature Parks Authority and is open to the public free of charge daily from 9 AM-5 PM — except for Fridays and holiday eves, when it will be open from 9 AM-3 PM (winter) and 9 AM-4 PM (summer).

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