One of only two organized outdoor baptismal sites in Israel, this is a must-see for pilgrims. Purify yourself in the water where the Israelite crossed the Jordan, Elijah ascended to heaven and Jesus himself was baptized. Dedicated areas are set up here for prayer sessions. Map. More about baptizing, click here.
After much investment in infrastructure to improve the spiritual experience and physical comfort of tourists and pilgrims, the baptism site on the River Jordan known as Qasr el Yahud is now open to the public, free of charge, seven days a week.
Qasr el Yahud is the third most important site for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land (after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity). It is considered to be the site 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 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. The Tourism Ministry, among others, has invested about $2.3 million in renovating and upgrading the site. This includes the construction of wooden ramps into the Jordan River to allow pilgrims easy and comfortable access to the waters for baptism; erecting shaded areas for prayer sessions, upgraded bathroom, shower and parking facilities. The site is wheelchair accessible.
The site is managed by the Israel Nature Parks Authority.
Land of the Monasteries
Monasteries and churches were first established in the area to commemorate the site of Jesus’ baptism as far back as the Byzantine period. When pilgrimage conditions became difficult, particularly under Muslim rule, the monasteries became places of refuge and protection for pilgrims. But when the custom of baptism in the Jordan River began to be limited to the Eastern Church, and the Turkish authorities took pilgrimage to the Jordan and baptismal ceremonies under their aegis, those monasteries, in which conditions were very harsh, were no longer needed and they were gradually abandoned.
During the British Mandate, when conditions once again became secure in the region with the coming of the great powers to the Holy Land, tourism to Jericho and the baptismal site were renewed, leading to the construction of new monasteries at the site.
A number of churches, chapels and monasteries belonging to various denominations extend along a 3 km stretch south of the baptismal site. In 1956, an earthquake severely damaged the buildings. Due to the security situation, access to the area became difficult not only for pilgrims, but for the monks themselves, who gradually abandoned them. The abandoned and neglected buildings themselves are currently inaccessible due to fear of landmines.
Renewal of baptismal ceremonies
Baptismal ceremonies at the site were renewed in the 1980s following a request from the Greek Orthodox Patriarch to the Judea and Samaria Civil Administration. Greek Orthodox pilgrims were the first to renew baptismal rites at the site, followed gradually by the Franciscan, Coptic, Syraic, Romanian, Russian and Ethiopian churches. The ceremonies take place in coordination with the Civil Administrations officer for religions and churches and in coordination with the army, and they take place on two main dates: Easter (in April, according to the denomination’s religious calendar), and on the celebration of the Epiphany in January, according to the denomination’s religious calendar.
Qasr al Yahud Opening Hours
Qasr al Yahud is open daily 0900-1700 (summer) 0900 – 1500 (winter) except Fridays 0900-1500 (winter) or 0900-1400 (summer)
Groups of more than 300 pilgrims should pre-arrange a time.