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Jordan to develop competing site to Israel where John baptized Jesus

The Jordanian government is considering plans for a $100 million makeover of the site where many believe John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

King Abdullah and the Jordanian government are listening to proposals for the development of the “Pilgrimage Village of the Baptism Development Zone,” located on the east bank of the river. The plan for a tourist city on what currently is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site is controversial and could include souvenir shops, boutique hotels and botanical gardens.

Across the Jordan in Israel is Qasr al-Yahud which also commemorates the baptism event. The Yardenit, just south of the Sea of Galilee, is another site commemorating the baptism of Jesus.

Although the baptism site on the Jordanian side draws around 200,000 visitors every year, the proposed development could attract up to five times as many pilgrims ahead of the 2,000th anniversary of the biblical event. The site was visited and covered by Metro Voice in the article, “The Other Holy Land.”

Anita Widaman, the publisher of Metro Voice, has been to all three sites, including the Jordanian commemoration of the event. “I cannot say for sure which site it was,” she says. “What I do know is that for the guests on our annual tours to Israel, stepping into the water and being baptized or doing it a second time, is a very special moment filled with a lot of emotion.”

Widaman says that it is one of those unique moments on a tour to Israel.

The initial phase is estimated to cost about $15 million and as much as $100 million when it’s completed by 2029. The project would incorporate the site’s natural landscape heritage in honor of its historical and biblical significance, according to Kamel Mahadin, the architect behind the development.

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“We are talking about rustic stones and pebbles in architectural designs that preserve the place’s pristine nature and ensure that the sanctity and spirituality that existed 2,000 years ago are not trampled on by any development,” he said. “We are not talking about a high-tech landscape.”

READ: Our family trip to the Holy Land of Israel

Located about 30 miles west of Amman, the Jordanian capital, the baptism site is best known as a possible location where John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the “Lamb of God” as depicted in the first chapter of the gospel of John.

The Baptist World Alliance, a global Baptist coalition, has been named as one of nine faith organizations to build a welcome outpost at the future site. The first phase is expected to be completed in 2023. Although UNESCO has officially designated it as a World Heritage site, scholars have said it’s not clear whether the exact location falls on the Jordanian or Israeli side of the river, which has long been the source of a tourism dispute between the two countries.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice



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