Betania is one of those essential places to visit for those who undertake a religious tourism route for the Middle East. Not in vain, it is considered that it was the precise place where Jesus Christ was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River by John the Baptist.
In this way, for believers it is already attractive in itself. But, for those who are less so, the truth is that culturally it is an interesting place, as we will see below.
The Jordan River as it passes through Bethany
The Jordan River becomes the natural border between the states of Israel and Jordan. Its waters separate both territories. It is the same thing that happens, for example, in another of the most visited places in the area: the Dead Sea.
If we are on the Jordanian side of the river, we will step into the region known as Transjordan. Meanwhile, if we find ourselves on the other shore, we would talk about the territory of the West Bank. A region occupied by Israel and that is a source of permanent conflict, hence the strong militarization of that side.
That border character would not have it in the times of Jesus Christ. And, in the same way, its course was very different from what is seen today in Betania. In biblical times it would be a wide and deep rivercapable of the faithful being baptized with complete immersion of their body.
Today there is only a narrow branch of water, with much less flow than the natural one, mainly due to the presence of an Israeli dam in the upper section of the river.
Visit to Bethany on the Jordanian shore
We suggest you visit Betania during a trip to Jordan, since it is easy to book excursions from the capital, Amman. And it can even be combined with an excursion to Jerash. In fact, it is not a place that can be visited freely, since it is necessary to approach it on guided tours and pay an entrance fee.
Baptisms in the Jordan River
When making the tour on the Jordanian side, you can see how baptisms are still performed in the riverbed. And especially striking are those made by groups of Jews on the other shore. They arrive there dressed for the occasion in white tunics, with which they submerge three times in the riverbed.
It is not the only thing that attracts attention on the Hebrew bank of the Jordan. Everything is very sumptuous, with buildings of great presence and palm trees. Meanwhile, on the Jordanian shore there is only a wooden pier and some simple stairs that descend to the river, as well as a baptismal font so that it is not necessary to submerge.
Yes ok, the most significant place is a large pool in the shape of a cross in which Jesus is supposed to have immersed himself. In the 6th century a marble staircase was built here to reach the river, as well as a Byzantine church on the place where the Baptist lived. A monument of which only some mosaics and the foundations have come down to us.
The archaeological remains of Betania
In fact, there are many remains of buildings in this stretch of the river. Various beliefs within Christianity built their temples here. In this way, you can see what Coptic, Assyrian, Anglican, Baptist, Catholic or Armenian churches were.
In short, as in so many other places in Jordan, and in the Middle East in general, history, art and religion are closely linkedand dominate the sensations of any trip through the area.
Not to be confused with the village of Betania
You should know that in the evangelical texts the toponym of Betania appears on another occasion, in addition to the place of Christ’s baptism. There is another Bethany, a village very close to the city of Jerusalemmore specifically near the Mount of Olives.
As well, this case is about the place where Lázaro lived with his sisters María and Marta. Another of those sites that make up the routes of religious tourism in the Holy Land.