Saturday, February 1, 2014

CLO Trip to the Baptism Site

Fourty-five minutes away, along the same road as the Dead Sea resorts, is the Baptism Site along the Jordan River where John baptized Jesus.  The Jordan River separates parts of Israel from Jordan so there's quite a lot of shared history, Biblical and otherwise.  The land currently excavated was not too long ago covered in land mines.

When folks think of Biblical history many gravitate to Jerusalem.  It's understandable, of course.  But when discussing the birth of Christianity, much of that happened on this side.  Above is where John the Baptist lived in a cave.

Oddly enough, when I heard stories like that in Jerusalem I took them with a grain of salt.  Too much of it was couched in "this is where people think it happened" or essentially "the wilderness is a big place so there's no way to really know, but touch this rock anyway."  Our guide, the Deputy Director of the site and Head of the baptismal site archaeology division, convinced me that these unearthed floors were something of import.  With knowledge of where the Jordan used to flow and it's height before massive irrigation has nearly drained it, the location of other sites in the area that correlate to Biblical and historical passages, along with pilgrim reports for hundreds of years after the death of St. John, it sure seemed reasonable that this was indeed where John lived long the East Bank of the Jordan River.

The Jordan River has dropped meters down and shrunk from its once wide banks.  But there are clear signs of where it used to run, one is this area of rushes that sway in the brisk wind and sound like waves and falling water.  Dry river beds creep through the area waiting even a mediocre rainfall (of which we are greatly lacking this winter).

What plagues much of Jordan and historical sites around the world, lack of funding means this site is slowly wasting away.  Our guide poured a little water on a mosaic floor to bring out the colors, but just to the right of him you can see a pile of what looks like sprinkled pebbles.  Instead, those are mosaic tiles loosening in the soil and literally falling out of the ground.  The mosaic is coming apart at the seams.

Stories told of the Baptismal site with marble tiles and a font filled by the Jordan River.  This is it.  When they began excavating, they found the marble stones and a cruciform baptism font that at the base, that when the River is flowing, fills up the basin.  Pretty spectacular stuff.

Mosaic Tile: Queen Rania, Pope JPII, cousin of the King, the King
 The cousin of the King is the head of the program for Christian and Muslim collaboration.

The River now is just a few meters wide and it's heavily protected on both sides as, yes, the other side is Israeli.  Our side is very natural and rustic, the other side appears to be a concrete visitor's center.  I'm pretty sure I like our side better.

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