Travelers may be confused when wanting to visit the place in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized as there are two locations named for this event. For 44 years Yardinet has been visited by travelers as Qasr el Yahud, the tradition location mentioned in the New Testament, was inaccessible for political reasons. Qasr el Yahud fell outside of Israeli Authority but in 2010 Qasr el Yahud was once again opened to the public and is the preferred site of Jesus’ baptism.
Qasr el Yahud, Kasser Al Yahud (Castle of the Jews) is a location along the Jordan River in the West Bank about 40 minutes from Jerusalem. Qasr el Yahud is in the Palestinian Territories currently administered by Israel and open to all. Today the site is thought to be the 3rd holiest Christian site in Israel and a popular Christian pilgrimage site. It is the oldest know Christian baptismal site.
The annual Feast of Epiphany is celebrated here by the Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Church. The celebration is a joyous one with white doves being released at its conclusion mirroring the Biblical scripture which tells of Jesus’ baptism when “…he saw the Sprit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him…“
What happened at Qasr el Yahud
As recounted in Luke, John (1:29:33) and Matthew (3:13:17) it was at Qasr el Yahud that John the Baptist baptized Jesus, it was also the site that John would regularly baptize converts to Christianity. The scriptures say that Jesus came to Jordan to be baptized by John. John at first refused saying it should be the other way around, that Jesus should be baptizing him but in the end it was John the Baptist that baptizes Christ. When Jesus arose out of the water the heavens opened and he saw The Holy Spirit who spoke to him. It was here that God called Jesus “my son” for the first time in the Bible. The baptism marked the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
Another major event from the Bible which took place here was the crossing of the Jordan by the Israelites when they crossed over into the Promised Land of Canaan.
It is thought that Elijah the Prophet ascended to heaven from Qasr el Yahud.
What to see and do in Qasr el Yahud
The main focus of the site is the water itself, there are marble steps descending into the water estimated to be more than 1400 years old. In the surrounding stones you can see where Christian pilgrims have carved small crosses in the stone thorough the years. It is possible to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River at the same spot where Jesus was baptized at Qasr el Yahud. The baptismal pool is shaped like a cross and is naturally filled by the flowing waters of the Jordan.
You can see the remains of two churches, a Byzantine and a Crusader Church dating back to the 5th century. The excavation site reveals mosaics and the steps leading to the water.
After extensive and costly rejuvenation of the site by the Israeli Tourism Ministry the site has all tourist conveniences one might need.