The river Jordan
The river Jordan is the renowned river of Palestine and the most famous of the Holy Land. The name Jordan is Hebrew from the word “iarden” meaning going down, fall. Three co-joined rivers comprise this most historical river. These three rivers form the lake of Gennesaret or sea of Tiberias. Sprouting from it, the river Jordan forms many streams and smaller rivers which conclude into the Dead Sea.
Apart from the significant role in the financial growth of Palestine, the river was associated with many religious and historical events. The twelve Tribes of Israel were separated at the river banks before they entered the Promised Land in order to live there. The Essenes founded their community near the river some 200 years before Christ’s era, and Saint John the Baptist came at the east side of the river to preach repentance and baptize the people of Israel.
Christ Himself was baptized on the waters of the river making it the holiest of the Christian Shrines since then. During the 3rd century the south part of the river opposite Jericho was established as the baptism site of Christ. The Church Fathers, especially Origen, Eusevios, as well as the map of Madaba, place the baptism site nearby Bethabara, which means crossing. The baptism site is also matched with the place where Prophet Elijah ascended into heaven. Pilgrims can also see the “cave of Prophet Elijah”.
The Pilgrims’ baptism at the river Jordan has been established since the beginning of the Christian time, while the water, the holy water, is transferred to all Christian places worldwide. The pilgrims who are baptized at the “walking site” are bestowed the title “Hatzides”.