Jordan has announced plans to develop the site along the Jordan River – where John is believed to have baptized Jesus – into a destination for Christian pilgrims from around the world.

King Abdullah himself attended a ceremony last week to officially appoint the board which was formed last year to provide a strategic vision to develop the site. The plan includes improving the infrastructure to accommodate more pilgrims and establishing a village with hotels and hospitality, an area for religious ceremonies, as well as agricultural parks and gardens.

“The board will oversee the development of these areas, while ensuring the protection of the Baptism Site as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” according to the Royal Hashemite website. “The advisory board groups areexperts from around the world in development, tourism, cultural heritage and hospitality, among other key fields.”

Both Jordan and Israel maintain baptism sites on their respective sides of the Jordan River. In Israel the site is called Qasr al-Yehud, while in Jordan it is known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan.  The site is significant to Christians who believe that this baptism launched the public phase of Jesus’ ministry.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan Baptismal site (Photo: Producer/Wikimedia Commons)

Jordan has hired a PR agency, Finn Partners, to promote the site, which features Roman and Byzantine remains, churches and chapels, a monastery, caves that were used by hermits and baptismal pools.

Earlier this year, former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took steps to accelerate development of the site on the Israeli side of the Jordan River. Rivlin – who encouraged historic Christian denominations to build new churches there and hosted the Evangelical former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – even had a discreet conversation with the Jordanians on how best to move forward together. 

ALL ARAB NEWS Editor-in-Chief Joel Rosenberg reported that it was one of Rivlin’s “life missions” to “improve the Israeli site and to jointly develop a plan with the Jordanian government whereby visitors on the Israeli side could cross a bridge over the river to tour the Jordanian side, and vice versa.”

This plan is also meant to improve the water quality of the river. 

“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan, coming to John to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?’”
Matthew 3:13-14

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