Above photo: Jordan River today, Christopher-Sprake / iStock / Getty
My name is Jonathan. I am a Mennonite Christian Palestinian US American. My dual identities as a Palestinian, and as a white US American offer me insight to Christianity both as an indigenous wisdom tradition, and as a religion serving as a tool of global imperialism. I write each entry of this two-part blog post from the first person, as a Palestinian Christian, and as a Western Christian respectively. See part 1 of my Jordan River Watershed snapshot here.
Last year, over 2.4 million Christians visited the “Holy Land.” To put that into perspective, 60% of the tourists to Israel were Christian, compared to only 20% Jewish. Christian tourists spent billions of dollars to walk where Jesus walked, visit sites from the Bible, and see the remains of the world Jesus inhabited.
A favorite spot for these tourists is the Yardenit Baptismal Site, the most visited spot on the Jordan River. This site is not the site traditionally believed to be that of Jesus’ Baptism—that’s Al-Maghtas on the Jordanian side, or where Elijah ascended into heaven—that’s Qasr el Yahud, in the West Bank Palestinian territories. The Yardenit Baptismal Site has no biblical significance at all.
So why does virtually every “Holy Land” tour visit it? Because it is in Israel. It is a fictionalized baptismal spot created by the Israeli minister of tourism in the 1980s for Christian tourists to be “baptized in the Jordan.” Its purpose is to give Christian tourists the experience without having to interact with Jordanian or Palestinian Arabs. Read more