Several Christian pilgrims gathered in the area to commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany, a day observed by Catholics and Orthodox Christians to rejoice the time when the three Magi visited Jesus as a baby, and hence Jesus's physical manifestation to the Gentiles.
Over the weekend, the banks of the Jordan River witnessed over 20,000 Christians who were patiently waiting to get baptized in the same location where Jesus is believed to be baptized by John the Baptist. In addition to being the site where Elijah ascended to heaven, it's the same place where the children of Israel are considered to have crossed over into the Promised Land, reports CBN News. "At this time of year, we wish to greet members of the Christian religion on the occasion of their baptism ceremonies," said the head of the Jericho District Coordination and Liason Administration, Lieutenant Colonel Eran Gross, in a statement.
Several Christian pilgrims gathered in the area to commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany, a day observed by Catholics and Orthodox Christians to rejoice the time when the three Magi visited Jesus as a baby, and hence Jesus's physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Many Christian pilgrims flocked towards Qasr al-Yahud baptismal site situated on the Jordan River and participated in several ceremonies throughout Saturday and Sunday. The site, which is considered to be the holiest by Christians and is under the protection of the IDF and Israeli police and auspices of COGAT and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, is visited by many believers every year to profess their faith in Jesus through baptism.
Numerous Orthodox believers across Eastern Europe and Russia were seen braving the chilling temperature by dipping thrice in the water to signify the Trinity -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, others gathered in Isreal to be part of a ceremony that has attracted the faithful from around the world. Five church groups have organized baptismal ceremonies to celebrate the festival of Epiphany since the beginning of January. A procession was led by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, on Saturday, leading towards the ceremony.
According to Fox News, the ceremony was attended by Gross and Civil Administration of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) head Brigadier General Ghassan Alyan. On the same day, Greek Orthodox and Eritrean communities also held their services. The following day, the Syriac and Ethiopian sects organized their ceremonies in the area bringing a total number of attendees to a whopping 20,000 in just a matter of days. "The Civil Administration has made much effort to prepare for these important ceremonies, as part of its program to preserve freedom of religion and worship for all Christian denominations," said Gross according to The Jerusalem Post. "Thanks to the ceremonies, we see a marked rise in tourism alongside a boost to the economy, for which I am thankful. On this occasion, I would like to wish all members of the Christian community happy holidays."