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!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • 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.