Kibbutz Is Top Spot for Jordan River Baptisms

Galilee Site Is a Draw for Christian Tourists to Holy Land

You’ve Been Dunked: Christian pilgrims dip at Yardenit.
Courtesy Yardenit
You’ve Been Dunked: Christian pilgrims dip at Yardenit.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published December 02, 2012, issue of November 30, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Orlando Soares, a charismatic Christian pastor on pilgrimage from England, emerged from the Jordan River, close to where Jesus is said to have been baptized, beaming with happiness. “It’s like a restart — a declaration I want to do everything again,” he said. “You’re reborn. It represents new life and new commitment to God.”

Busy season is starting at this spot of the Jordan, where it joins the Sea of Galilee.

Over the coming weeks, Christians from around the world will head to Israel to fulfill a dream of Christmas in the Holy Land, and many of them will find their most sacred experience at a site run by Jews. Forget cowsheds, chicken coups, combine harvesters and even computers — baptism could be the new hot kibbutz industry.

This baptismal site of Yardenit is the largest income stream for the second oldest kibbutz in Israel, Kibbutz Kinneret. Though it is not the site of Jesus’ baptism — the actual spot is near Jericho, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and wasn’t easily accessible until a couple of years ago — Yardenit is the most popular place on the Jordan River for baptisms.

Back in the early 1980s it was a fish farm. The kibbutz leadership was unenthusiastic when the Ministry of Tourism asked it to change its use, after the death of a pilgrim highlighted the dangers of the haphazard baptism practices. At that time, there was no designated site for baptisms, and the pilgrim was killed exiting his car after parking, as many did, on a busy road along the river so that he could immerse.

“We weren’t excited, but we agreed,” said Yonathan Bobrov, the site’s manager. Bobrov was born on Kibbutz Kinneret 63 years ago and has lived there ever since. “It was only 10 years later that we started to see it as a great thing and see its potential.”

But Yardenit had a long way to go before it became the chic, well-oiled operation that it is today. It now receives 600,000 visitors annually. Some of them baptize in the classic sense of formally admitting themselves to Christianity by entering the river or being sprinkled with its water; others immerse to emulate Jesus and reaffirm their faith.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.