Fed by the Dan, Hermon (Banias) and Snir rivers, which originate on the Golan Heights, the Jordan River is 250 km long. It ends at the Dead Sea. About one third of its way southwards it widens considerably into a large lake – the Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. The water is sweet and fit to drink and not salty as one would expect from ‘sea’.

Before earthquakes sealed the southern end of the Dead Sea the Jordan River flowed through the Dead Sea, through the Arava and ended in the Red Sea. Perhaps it was one such earthquake described in Genesis “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire … and Abraham got up early in the morning … and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace”. (Gen19:24ff)

After leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt and wandering forty years in the desert Moses stood at Mount Nebo and looked westwards over the Jordan River to the Promised Land which he was not to enter. It fell to Joshua to lead the tribes across the Jordan River..

When the people removed from their tents to pass over the Jordan … the waters which came down from above stood and rose up … and the people passed over right against Jericho. … and Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan   …   and those twelve stones … did Joshua pitch in Gilgal”.    (Josh 3:14- 4:24)

As Matthew does not describe where Jesus was baptized by John (Mat 3:13-17) there are different traditions. Some hold that it was in the Galilee, where John preached against the deeds of Herod Antipas, King of the Galilee.

At Yardenit, where the Sea of Galilee narrows and flows into the southern Jordan River, steps and hand rails have been provided so that Christian pilgrims wanting to be baptized in the Jordan river to do so in safety.

It is quite an awe-inspiring sight to see these pilgrims, clad in white, entering the Jordan River to the sound of prayers and hymns of praise.

The site, run by a nearby kibbutz, has clean showers, a restaurant and a gift shop.

For those who believe that Jesus was baptized in the wilderness, closer to the Dead Sea, there are two sites, one on the western bank and one, less accurate, on the eastern bank.

Although not a very wide river the steep banks make it difficult to navigate and the Crusader fortress at Belvoir guards one of the few crossing points.

In the summer months thousands of vacationers navigate the northern Jordan River on kayaks and large inner tubes and hike the nature trails along the Dan, Snir and Hermon rivers which flow into the Jordan River.

Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)

Other sites in this area

Mount of Beatitudes

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Mount Tabor

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Mount Meron

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