Jordan River

The Jordan River north of Lake Kinneret

Fed by the melting snow that collects on the peaks of Mt. Hermon, the Jordan River is perhaps the most famous river in the world, or certainly the one which receives the highest number of Google hits.

Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

(Matthew 3:5-6)

The prophesy of Isaiah regarding the Messiah, as recalled by Matthew in 4:15, mentions the Jordan a bit later. But before winning such fame and recognition in the New Testament, the Jordan River is mentioned in the Old Testament beginning with stories about Abraham who was promised by God to receive the land for his followers nearby on the Hermon mountain and continuing on through Jacob, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha before achieving its status in the Christian narrative. With the advent of Jesus’ baptism at Jardenit or Bethany by John, who conducted his ministry in the region near the river, the Jordan River became the ultimate in pilgrimage destinations. The ensuing stories, songs, poems, operas, paintings, ballets and publications perpetuate the mystical call to the region. Of course, the battles that were fought over the control of the Jordan River are significant in world history to say the least. Joshua crossed the Jordan to fight the Nabateans and a bit later, his brother Jonathan fought and defeated the Bacchides on the Jordan River. It is the natural boundary between modern Israel and Jordan. The disputed “West Bank,” so much in the news, refers to the west bank of the Jordan River which was under Jordan’s control before the June 1967 war.

Though 13 miles long, the Jordan River is not very wide, a mere 17 yards, and it does not get very deep either, only around 17 feet, not much more than an Olympic swimming pool. It is, however, a vehicle for important waters. The name in Hebrew “Yarden” means descent and was given the name because the river’s sources begin by flowing from the Hermon’s heights and flow down through the Sea of Galilee before reaching the river. The waters finally reach the Dead Sea, below sea level.

Christian Pilgrims trek to the Jordan River as a matter of course and sites for baptism in its waters are preserved for easy and comfortable access.

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