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!
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • 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.