A historical ceremony is planned next week to officially reopen the Qasr al-Yahud ritual baptism site on the Jordan River, east of Jericho, 43 years after it was closed.
But following concerns raised by Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, the ceremony is now in danger. Misezhnikov fears that holding the ceremony in such a sensitive place, located within the area conquered in 1967, will stir up international opposition and affect relations with Jordan in the area. Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom, however, is still determined to go through with it.
After failing to come to an agreement, the two presented the issue to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his inner security cabinet.
Qasr al-Yahud is considered a holy site for the Jewish people. According to tradition, it is the site where the people of Israel crossed the Jordan River on their way to the country. The site is also very sacred to the Christian community, because it is considered to be the most likely place where Jesus was baptized John the Baptist.
Each year over 100,000 tourists visit the Israeli side, arriving at the site even though it has yet to be officially opened to tourists, and about a million tourists on the Jordan side. The tourists bring millions of dollars to the local economy of both countries and create hundreds of jobs.
Source; Ynet News
Qasr al-Yahud is near the northern coast of the Dead Sea. It is not the Yardenit site near the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, where many Christian pilgrims to Israel get baptized.
Both of these Israeli ministers have a good point. Opening the site would be problematic for Israel’s relationship with the traditional churches since it would radically alter the status quo that governs Israel’s relations with them. But it would also bring a lot more tourists to the area and stimulate Israel’s economy, which is hurting along with the rest of the world. This is just another reason why we all need to be praying for Israel’s leaders to have wisdom in knowing how to handle this situation.
But despite all the hype, there is nothing special, from a Biblical point of view, about getting baptized in this site. A person’s baptism will not be any more valid in God’s eyes if they get baptized at Qasr al-Yahud than if they get baptized at the Yardenit site, or off the beach in Miami, or in the Thames River in London, or the Mekong River in Vietnam, or anywhere else.
There are at least four sites in Israel that are claimed by different traditional churches as being the spot where Jesus met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. There are dozens of spots which claim to be the birth and burial spots of John the Baptist.
It is not important WHERE these things happened, it is important that they DID happen, and there is a lesson to be learned from them. Learning the lesson is the important thing.
1 Corinthians 10:11-12 says:
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
Written by Aaron