The Jordan river runs along the eastern border of the Holy Land; it holds a special in the history of Israel, because it’s important for the Jews and Christians.
The river is important for Jews because the tribes of Israel under Joshua crossed the river on dry ground to enter the Promised Land after years of wandering in the desert and for the Christians because John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan.
The prophets Elijah and Elisha also crossed the river dry-shod; and the Syrian general Naaman was healed of leprosy after washing in the Jordan at Elisha’s direction.
The Jordan flows from where Israel, Syria and Lebanon meet, the Jordan River passes through the Sea of Galilee and ends in the Dead Sea. A large part of its 320-kilometre length forms the border between Israel and Jordan in the north and the West Bank and Jordan in the south.
From far before Jesus’ time until recently, flooding in winter and spring expanded the river Jordan’ width to 1.5km. Dams in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel now avoid flooding; the river is now more like a creek than a river — less than 10 meters across and 2 meters deep.
The place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist is believed to be – what is now – Jordan, on the east bank of a large loop in the river opposite Jericho. Before the peace treaty with Jordan, the area was a Jordanian military zone and not accessible. While the Jordanian location was inaccessible, a modern site commemorating Christ’s baptism was established at Yardenit in Israel, at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee.
Maintained by a kibbutz, it is a popular place for Christian pilgrims to renew their baptismal promises — or for new Christians to be baptized, often in white robes and undergoing total immersion in the mild waters of the Jordan.