The Qasr al-Yehud Baptism Site
Visit the Jordan River
Location - The Jordan River
Map Coordinates - 31.837146, 35.546317
We always allow our live Octagon Tour groups to be baptized in the Jordan River, very close to the place where Jesus Himself was baptized.
Located on the west bank of the Jordan, five miles north of the Dead Sea, and six miles due east of Jericho, is Qasr al-Yehud (meaning Castle of the Jews). This is the closest spot in the nation of Israel to the place where Jesus was baptized. His original baptism site was in the country of Jordan, in a place called Wadi Kharrar, about 350 yards to the east of the Jordan.
The Jordan River (Jordan means descending) meanders considerably. It has the distinction of being the world's lowest river below sea level, in what is known as the Jordan Rift Valley, where two plates of the earth’s crust create frequent earthquakes. It runs between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, and even though the distance between these two large lakes is only 104 miles, because the river curves so much, the river actually flows a distance of 223 miles, having created in its path a very wide valley. All of this means that over the last 2000 years the Jordan River has understandably re-contoured its banks.
On the Israel side the site features the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint John which was first built in the fifth century. On the Jordan side, Elijah’s hill, where it is understood that Elijah was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire, is a little more than half a mile to the east.
The Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint John the Baptist near Qasr al Yehud.
According to various traditions, the site is also believed to be the place where the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River and entered the Holy Land after their 40 years of wandering in the desert (see Joshua 3:14-17).
Usage of Qasr al-Yehud for baptisms and re-baptisms is relatively recent, with the site reopening in 2010 after being closed for 44 years. It was the Greek Orthodox who played the greatest role in making it possible for pilgrims to visit the river at this spot.
At this location the width of the river is about 30 feet, with a depth between three to ten feet. During the spring flood stage, when the snows from Mount Hermon in the north are flowing down through the Jordan, the banks of the river swell with muddy water.
There are typically two Israeli soldiers guarding their side of the river, and one Jordanian soldier guarding his. This is obviously to keep anyone from swimming from one side to the other.