Bethany is one of those places of visit essential for those who undertake a religious tourism route for the Middle East. Not surprisingly, it is considered to be the precise place where Jesus Christ was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River by John the Baptist.
In this way, for believers it is already attractive in itself. But, for those who are less, the truth is that culturally it is an interesting site, as we will see next.
The Jordan River as it passes through BethanyBaptisms in the Jordan River
The Jordan River becomes the natural border between the states of Israel and Jordan. Its waters separate both territories. It is the same thing that happens, for example, in another of the most visited places in the area: the Dead Sea.
If we are on the Jordanian bank of the river we will step on the region known as Transjordan. Meanwhile, if we are on the other bank, we would talk about the West Bank territory. A region occupied by Israel and that is a reason for permanent conflict, hence the strong militarization of that side.
That border character would not have it in the time of Jesus Christ. And, in the same way, its channel was very different from what is seen today in Bethany. In biblical times it would be a wide and deep river, capable of the faithful being baptized with full immersions of their body.
Today there is only a narrow branch of water, with much less flow than the natural one, especially due to the presence of an Israeli dam on the upper stretch of the river.
Visit to Bethany on the Jordanian shore
We propose to approach Bethany during a trip to Jordan, since it's easy to hire excursions from the capital, Amman. And it can even be combined with an excursion to Jerash. In fact, it is not a place that can be visited freely, as it is necessary to approach guided tours and pay admission.
Baptisms in the Jordan RiverBaptismal pool
When making the journey on the Jordanian side, you can see how baptisms are still performed in the riverbed. And especially striking are the groups of Jews on the other shore. There they arrive dressed for the occasion with white robes, with which they submerge three times in the channel.
It is not the only thing that attracts attention on the Hebrew shore of the Jordan. Everything is very sumptuous, with buildings of great presence and palm trees. Meanwhile, on the Jordanian riverbank there is only a wooden pier and simple stairs that descend to the river, as well as some baptismal font so that it is not necessary to dive.
While, the most significant place is a large cross-shaped pool in which Jesus is supposed to be submerged. In the sixth century, a marble staircase was built here to reach the river, as well as a Byzantine church in the place where the Baptist lived. A monument from which only a few mosaics and foundations have reached us.
The archaeological remains of BethanyJordan river
Actually, there are many remains of buildings in this section of the river. Various beliefs within Christianity built their temples here. In this way, you can see what were Coptic, Assyrian, Anglican, Baptist, Catholic or Armenian churches.
Anyway, as in so many other places in Jordan, and in the Middle East in general, history, art and religion are closely linked, and dominate the sensations of any trip through the area.
Do not confuse with the village of Bethany
You should know that in the evangelical texts the place name of Bethany appears on another occasion, in addition to the place of baptism of Christ. There is another Bethany, a village very close to the city of Jerusalem, more specifically near the Mount of Olives.
As well, This case is about the place where Lázaro lived with his sisters María and Marta. Another of those sites that make up the routes of religious tourism in the Holy Land.