Would you like to get baptized while you are visiting Israel? The Jordan River was the site of the first baptism, and many pilgrims still return to this area to get baptized, to this day. Baptism in Israel is very special highlight for many Christian tourists who visit the Holy Land each year.
On my last trip to Israel I had the opportunity to stop and see Yardenit, a baptismal site at the tip of the Sea of Galilee, and the mouth of the Jordan river.
Every year Yardenit offers over half a million tourists and pilgrims the opportunity to be baptized in the same waters that John the Baptist baptized Jesus in. But if you are not part of a tour group, you might not be aware of this opportunity.
Even if you just want to stop and have a look, Yardenit is a lovely and peaceful park-like place, with flowers and paths. It’s open daily and admission is free.
You can’t just jump in and declare yourself baptized however! If you wish to be baptized you will need to bring or rent a white baptismal robe, and BYO Clergy.
This is not an issue for faith based tour groups but if you are on your own, and determined to be baptized, check the website and/or call ahead. The staff at Yardenit can help you make arrangements for yourself or your group by providing some references.
Yardenit is well marked and easy to find from the road. There are wheel chair ramps so this baptismal site is easily accessible to all.
From the Yardenit website:
Yardenit provides pilgrims and tourists with modern comforts in the biblical setting of the Holy Land, offering a serene and spiritual setting for those wishing to baptize in the River Jordan:
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven; ‘Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11
Visitors to Yardenit are greeted by this very verse from Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus in over 80 languages and dialects, depicted in hand painted tiles by Armenian artist Hagop Antreassian on the Wall of New Life.
Entry to the site is free. Visitors may rent or purchase white baptism robes on site. There are quiet areas for group prayers and contemplation. We take pride in respecting the religious sensitivities of all our visitors. The river banks themselves retain their pastoral landscapes, with rich greenery and wildlife. Otters and fish swim freely in the river.
If you visit Yardenit there is a lovely gift shop that sells a wide variety of the usual semi-religious tourist goods including pottery, crosses, rosaries and olive wood items. Probably the most popular things to purchase, however, are simply the small bottles of water to bring home with you. This is a very popular and inexpensive gift for many people. You don’t even have to get wet.
The water can be brought home in checked luggage, to be used when children or other family members are baptized.
If you like this idea but cannot make it to Yardenit, or simply don’t want to pack water in your suitcase, you have another option. Holy water from the Jordan river can also be purchased online from the Yardenit gift shop and shipped abroad.
What surprised me at this Yardenit was the number of fish in the water. Little fish and great big catfish which do not seem particularly afraid of people. You need to be prepared for the fish if you are planning to be baptized here. They are harmless but they are plentiful!
There are also adorable otters spotted in the area, but we did not see them on our brief visit.
The park-like atmosphere is a draw for locals as well as tourists. It’s a peaceful place to sit and reflect for a bit, no matter what your religion.
Although I’ve been to Israel several times, I had not been to Yardenit before. I was really happy to discover how lovely it was. I would love to return with my relatives or friends who were interested in being baptized while in on a future trip!
If being baptized while you are in Israel is on your bucket list, make sure to check out Yardenit.