The annual major ceremony of the Christian communities will be held at the Qasr Al Yahud baptismal site tomorrow (Wednesday), 18.1.12.
The ceremonies will be attended by the heads of the Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian, Syriac and Coptic communities. The main ceremony will begin at 11:00 with the arrival of the Greek Patriarch for prayers in the St. John monastery. It should be noted that the Ethiopian ceremony will take place on Thursday, 19.1.12, at the same time. The Armenian ceremony will be on Sunday, 22.1.12.
According to Christian tradition, the site marks the spot where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
During the last few years, tens of millions of dollars were invested by the IDF Civil Administration, the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, the Ministry of Tourism and the Regional Cooperation Ministry in order to renovate and upgrade the site. Accordingly, mines were removed, access roads to the site were widened, and parking lots were built. A deck was also built with security bars in order to enable immersion at the water line.
In July 2011, the site was officially re-opened for pilgrims, with no prior coordination required. Following this, an increase of 110% of visitors was recorded between 2010 and 2011, while in 2011, 130,000 pilgrims visited the site.
Because of the expected arrival of tens of thousands of people to the site, entry of private vehicles will not be allowed. Those arriving by private vehicle will park at the upper gate and go down to the site on organized transportation.
At the entrance, journalists with valid GPO cards will be given a card, which will enable them to descend to the water line without waiting in the queue. However, coverage of the Greek Patriarch’s procession to the water line will be by FPA pool (stills – AP, EPA & SIPA; TV – Reuters & APTN) only! Members of the press not in the pool will be directed to a suitable area from which they will be able to observe and cover the ceremony.
A connection will be available to a sound system and webcam that will operate at the site in order to allow camera crews to broadcast the waterside ceremony.
Later, representatives of the COGAT and Defense Ministry spokespersons’ offices will be on hand to assist journalists with information; officials will be able to give interviews.
Representatives will also provide you with access cards at the entrance gate and at the information center by the waterline.