Qaser al-Yahud is on the western bank of the River Jordan, where it is believed that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Christian tradition holds that this river bank and its counterpart on the eastern bank in Jordan are the place of the “spiritual birth“ of Jesus. As such, the baptismal site is of great sacred significance. It is the third holiest site in the Christian world, after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Circa AD 25-30 Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
400AD – Monasteries and churches to commemorate the site were first constructed.
When pilgrimage conditions became difficult, during the region's turbulent past, the churches became places of refuge and protection.
1930’s – The churches were rebuilt and services were often held next to the holy site.
The Franciscan church in 1933. Courtesy of Custodia Terra Sancta.
1967 – Around the time of the Six Day War landmines were laid along the border with Jordan. For nearly fifty years, landmines prevented access to the land and sacred churches.
2000 – Preparations were made for the Pope’s visit with an area of the minefield cleared to allow access to the river. Yet mines remain only a few meters away behind a barbed wire fence.
2011 – A small part of the site was opened to the public for the first time, without the need for military approval, but with restricted access.
2014 – The HALO Trust started clearing landmines in the West Bank.
2016 – Global fundraising campaign launched to make the Baptism site mine free.
It is estimated that over 300,000 tourists visit annually, at Epiphany and throughout the year.