One of the most important sites, after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church off the Nativity in Bethlehem, for Christian Pilgrims visiting the Holy Land is the baptism site of Qasr el Yahud. Traditionally this is the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist who then recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
The name Qasr el Yahud is in Arabic and means “The Jews Castle” and this site also has an important part in Jewish tradition as it is said to be the place where the ancient Israelites crossed into the Promised Land after their flight from Egypt.
Previously for various reasons this site was only open to the public on specific special feast days but now after investment in infrastructure and far reaching renovations the site is now open to the public, seven days a week, free of charge.
Wooden ramps have been constructed leading into the Jordan River thus allowing pilgrims comfortable easy access into the water for baptism. Shady areas have been constructed to accommodate prayer sessions and all facilities are of a high standard as well as being accessible for wheelchairs.
There are remains of several 5th century churches to be found at this site that have been excavated and allow free access. These excavations have some beautiful mosaics as well as ancient marble steps leading into the water. It is worth taking notice of the cruciform baptismal pool which is filled naturally by the Jordan River. It is not known how old the steps are that lead into the pool, but there have been references made to them approximately 1400 years ago. Pilgrims over the years have carved little crosses that can still be seen in the stone.